chapter
5 Pages

Introduction

Disability sport as it exists in its modern form is a relatively recent phenomenon that first emerged in Britain, specifically England, during the immediate post Second World War period. More specifically, as we shall explain elsewhere in this book, the roots of the emergence and early development of disability sport can be traced back to the request made by the British government that Sir Ludwig Guttmann (a Jewish neurosurgeon) should open the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England, in 1944. Once the NSIC was established, a range of sports and physical activities were used as a means of physical and psychological rehabilitation of large numbers of soldiers and civilians who had acquired a range of impairments following their involvement in the Second World War. Despite this initial motivation for encouraging the war-injured (especially those with spinal cord injuries) to engage in sport and physical activities, the perceived benefits that competitive, organized sports could have for war veterans and for challenging attitudes about the abilities of disabled people were quickly recognized by Guttmann and other hospital workers. The first formally recognized national event in disability sport was subsequently held for athletes with spinal cord injuries in 1948 at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. From these early beginnings, disability sport has since developed rapidly and disabled people with a range of physical, sensory and cognitive impairments now participate in sport and physical activity from the grassroots to elite level in many countries. Such has been the growing internationalization, globalization and competitiveness of disability sport at the elite level, for example, the thirteenth Paralympic Games held from 6-17 September 2008 in Beijing was the largest Paralympics ever with approximately 4,000 athletes participating in 20 sports.