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Paralympics is equal to Olympics, says daughter of Games founder Guttman

08-27-2012 00:11 BJT Special Report:2012 Paralympic Games |

LONDON, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Scheduled to attend the 166 delegations' flag-raising ceremonies at Paralympic Village, Eva Loeffler always mentions her father's name in her routine Mayor's welcome speech.

64 years ago, on the same day as the start of the 1948 London Olympic Games, Doctor Ludwig Guttman organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for disabled personnel on July 28, which was regarded as the origin and inspiration for the Paralympics.

"It's a long time in 1948. I was a teenager and I helped my father with the games. I picked up table tennis balls off the floors and pulled the arrows out of the archery butts," Loeffler recalled in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua after she delivered a speech to welcome Chinese athletes in the Village.

"There were just two teams of 14 people on wheelchairs for archery and javelin throw in early times. But they were competing and they got medals just like today. The Games were mainly helped by the volunteers," added the 79-year-old Village Mayor.

Loeffler introduced that her father Guttman, a successful neurosurgeon, originally used sports for his patients' recovery.

She said: "He did sports in first place for rehabilitation for his patients to strengthen their muscles of their upper body which they have left. It was as a way of physical therapy originally. Then it grew into competitive sports and grew bigger and entered the Paralympic Games."

"Of course my father loved sports for himself. He was loved by patients and staffs in hospital. Everyone called him 'Poppa', like today's 'daddy'," added Loeffler, whose father started to work in the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire since 1944.

After more and more athletes from other countries joined in, the Stoke Mandeville Games became global and inspired the following summer Olympics. In 1960 Rome Olympics, known at the time as the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games, they are now recognized as the first Paralympic Games.

Guttman, who died in 1980, finally fulfilled his dream to watch the 1976 Paralympics when he visited Toronto.

"He was very pleased, very happy, I can remember that," recalled by Loeffler.

"My father once said, I dreamed of the time when disabled people will take part in the Olympics. And his dream has come true. Oscar did it. It was wonderful," said she, referring to 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius's first Olympic show in London.

Loeffler said the special thing of the Paralympics is that it is quite normal. "They are not disabled sportsman. They are sportsman who happened to be disabled. They are sportsman first."

"Paralympics are equal to Olympics today. I hope more and more countries and players will join in," said she.

Following his father's footsteps, Loeffler, a volunteer at the first wheelchair Games in 1948, has been involved in the Paralympic movement since its outset. She was one of the original Directors of the British Paralympic Association, Chairman of British Wheelchair Sports Foundation. On August 20, LOCOG appointed her as Mayor of the London Paralympic Village.

"I hope he would be proud of me," she said and smiled.


Editor:Zhang Dan |Source: Xinhua

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