The redevelopment of Stoke Mandeville Stadium has transformed the original sports centre into a high grade leisure complex to enable WheelPower – British Wheelchair Sport to provide a venue of the highest quality for all users. Stoke Mandeville Stadium has become known as the ‘home of wheelchair sport’ and the ‘birthplace of the Paralympic Games’.
On 29 July 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games, Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann organised the first competition for wheelchair athletes, the Stoke Mandeville Games. 16 injured servicemen and women took part in archery and the Paralympic Movement was born.
2nd August, Her Majesty The Queen performed the official opening ceremony of the Stadium. 1969 was also the 18th Anniversary of the International Stoke Mandeville Games.
Dutch ex-servicemen and women joined the Paralympic Movement and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were founded. The National and International Stoke Mandeville Games were held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium for many years, until 1960 where the Games were held in Rome, Italy, alongside the Olympic Games; becoming the first Paralympic Games.
400-metre outdoor running track added to the facilities.
18th March Sir Ludwig Guttmann died aged 80. Subsequently the Stadium complex was renamed the Ludwig Guttmann Sports Centre for the Disabled – Stoke Mandeville.
Only wheelchair users took part in the Paralympic Games when they began, however as the Games developed a wider range of impairment groups were included and the number of athletes grew.
The Games, hosted by WheelPower (formerly the British Paraplegic Sports Society), were held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and in Aylesbury Vale, at short notice due to problems in the USA where the Games were originally planned. 1,100 athletes from 41 nations competed at Stoke Mandeville and 1,800 athletes from 45 nations competed in New York. The Great Britain team won a total of 331 medals, finishing second in the medal table.
Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony
Since 2014, every two years, as part of the Paralympic Torch Relay, Stoke Mandeville Stadium hosts the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony. This Ceremony recognises Stoke Mandeville’s role as the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement and sends a message of good luck to the athletes of today.
Stoke Mandeville Stadium hosts a range of sports events for thousands of disabled children, including the National Junior Games, which are a mixture of have-a-go and friendly competition in a variety of sports.
Paralympic stars Ade Adepitan MBE, David Weir CBE and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE took part in the National Junior Games on their road to success.
WheelPower runs sports camps to enable children and young people to discover wheelchair sport in a safe, welcoming and friendly environment. The emphasis of the camps is in building confidence, encouraging social interaction and providing a pathway into sport and physical activity for the children and their families.
8th April, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales officially re-opens the new Stadium.
Sport is a vital part of the rehabilitation of the 2000 men, women and children who become paralysed due to an accident or illness every year. Recently paralysed people travel to the Stadium from all over the UK to attend the annual WheelPower Inter Spinal Unit Games. The Games provide a fun introduction to over 20 different sports and physical activities.
In ceremonies representing human endeavour, groups of disabled and non-disabled scouts kindled the four flames on the highest peaks of each nation of the UK.
These flames were united to form the Paralympic Flame for the Torch Relay, which started at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. The Flame was then carried along the 92 mile route by 580 torchbearers before it arrived at the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Stoke Mandeville Stadium is owned by WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport. WheelPower is passionate about sport and physical activity and provides opportunities for disabled children and adults to lead active lives through a range of events, and sports programmes which are held here and throughout the country.
Each year the charity helps over 50,000 disabled people access sport and be more active.