Coventry academic launches new book on the Paralympic Games

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Friday 04 May 2012

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As the Paralympic Games prepares to return to the country of its inception this summer, one of the world’s leading experts on the competition has launched a 370-page book charting the event’s history and development since the 1940s.
Dr Ian Brittain of Coventry University’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies (CPRS) has dedicated 12 years to researching and writing the book, which is entitled From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A history of the Summer Paralympic Games.
It is intended to be the most complete resource on the Paralympic Games to date, featuring not only facts and figures but an extensive image collection including posters and winners’ medals – many of which have never before been seen in print.
The book also includes a comprehensive British Paralympic history for the summer Games, including the names of all participants and medallists from the UK who have competed since the annual event became part of the Olympic sphere for the first time at Rome in 1960.
Dr Brittain’s account of the Paralympic competition also details its first 12 years when it was known as the Stoke Mandeville Games – a period about which, historically, information has been scarce – offering unprecedented insight into how it evolved from its origins as a small archery demonstration on the front lawn of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, in 1948, to the first officially recognised Paralympic Games in 1960.

Dr Brittain said:
“London 2012 will be something of a homecoming for the Paralympic Games, so it’s a pleasure to be making this book available for people to enjoy in time for this summer’s event.
“A lot of the original material relating to the early Paralympic Games has, regrettably, either been destroyed by fire or disappeared into landfills due to lack of awareness as to its value and significance. It’s been an ambition of mine to salvage as much of this history as possible and bring it together into a single, easy-to-read volume. Hopefully it will inspire others to continue contributing to a more complete history in much the same way as has happened with the Olympics Games.”
Sir Philip Craven MBE, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), said:
“I welcome this latest book detailing all Paralympic Summer Games since their inception in Rome in 1960 to the incredible edition that took place in China in 2008. Ian Brittain’s scholarship is renowned for its detail and his ability to hunt down the final statistic or piece of information that completes the picture. His determination is a perfect example of one of the Paralympic movement’s key values.
“The history of the Paralympic Games is an incredible story of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity which has produced incredible athletic performances, incredible athletes and great human beings. Read this book and soak up the Paralympic spirit.”
The book is available in stores now.
Dr Ian Brittain’s blog, which offers further comment on and insight into disability sport and the Paralympic Games, can be viewed at here, and you can follow him on Twitter at @Dr_Ian_Brittain.
From Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th August – just a week prior to the start of the Paralympic Games – the CPRS and the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWASF) will be hosting an international conference at Coventry University focusing on the use of disability sport as a tool for peace, development and social inclusion.

Interesting Paralympic Games facts
  • Through his research, Dr Brittain was able to prove that Great Britain is the only nation to have competed in every single summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games since the events began (1896 for the Summer Olympic Games; 1924 for the Winter Olympic Games; 1960 for the Summer Paralympic Games; 1976 for the Winter Paralympic Games).
  • At Beijing in 2008, Paralympic swimmer David Roberts equalled Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson’s career tally of 11 gold, two silver and one bronze medal. However, neither come close to being Britain’s most successful Paralympian – that honour rests with a swimmer by the name of Mike Kenny, who competed from 1976 in Toronto to 1988 in Seoul, winning 16 individual gold medals and two silver medals in relays.
  • Were it not for a calculation error on the part of the Tel Aviv 1968 Summer Paralympic Games officials – which cheated Paralympic Pentathlete Caz Walton out of a gold medal – she would currently sit alongside Dame Grey-Thompson as having won the most Paralympic gold medals by a British female.
  • The earliest written use of the term ‘Paralympic’ appears in the summer issue of The Cord in 1951, when David Hinds, a Paraplegic at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, wrote an article entitled ‘Alice at the Paralympiad’ – a skit on Alice in Wonderland.
For further information, please contact Alex Roache, External Press & Media Relations Officer, Coventry University, on +44 (0)24 7679 5050 or email