LONDON, England ● In many ways in 2012 the Paralympic Games are coming home. The concept of the Paralympic Games was born in Stoke Mandeville, UK, when a disability sports competition was held at the same time as the London 1948 Olympic Games in London.
Sport for athletes with a disability has existed for more than 100 years but it was not until after the Second World War that it was widely introduced.
In 1944, German neurologist Dr Ludwig Guttmann opened a spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England. Guttmann transformed the care of Second World War servicemen as he introduced sport to their rehabilitation programme. He encouraged his patients to get involved in wheelchair polo and basketball.
On the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr Ludwig Guttmann held the first Archery competition for wheelchair athletes, which was the beginning of the Stoke Mandeville Games.
After this the Games were held annually, and in 1952 competitors from the Netherlands took part as well, and were soon to become the International Stoke Mandeville Games.
The Paralympic Games first took place in Rome 1960 Games and featured 400 athletes from 23 countries. Since then they have taken place every four years. In 1976 the first Paralympic Winter Games were held in Sweden, and as with the Olympic Games, have taken place every four years.
Since the Seoul 1988 Games, the Olympic and Paralympic Games have taken place in the same city.
As the years have gone by the Paralympic Games have grown bigger and become more high profile, and in terms of size and scale they are now the second biggest sporting event on earth, after the Olympic Games.
The London 2012 Paralympic Games will see 4,280 athletes compete – the largest numbers ever to attend a Paralympic Games. More than 503 gold medals will be awarded over the course of 11 days of competition.