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Founder 'would be proud' - daughter

The Jewish neurologist who escaped Nazi Germany and later founded the Paralympic Games would have been proud to see the celebration of elite disability sport it is today, his daughter said on Sunday.

Ludwig Guttmann set up a modest wheelchair sports tournament for World War II veterans at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in southern England in 1948. The popular event, repeated every year, eventually grew into the Paralympic Games.

Six decades later, Guttmann's daughter Eva Loeffler said attitudes towards disability had come a long way since the first Stoke Mandeville Games – where she volunteered as a teenager – but there was room for improvement.

"I think that more people will realise that disabled people are people," said the 79-year-old, who has dedicated much of her own life to promoting disability sport and is honourary mayor of the Paralympic Athletes' Village.

"Seeing the Games – seeing what is achieved, seeing the reactions of the medallists, hearing them talk in interviews – must make a big difference."

But she added: "It is 64 years and there jolly well ought to be advances."

Loeffler urged more countries to send teams to the Paralympics.

"There are still 40 countries for us to catch up to the Olympic Games," she said.

"In a lot of countries disabled people are either hidden away or have no equipment."

Guttmann and his family escaped from Germany in 1939, coming to England as refugees with the help of a charity.

He found work setting up the world's first specialised spinal injuries clinic at Stoke Mandeville, where he pioneered the use of sport in therapy for disabled people. He died in 1980.

The current Paralympics – which close on Sunday – are the first to be held in their spiritual birthplace of Great Britain since the inaugural event in Rome in 1960, although Stoke Mandeville did jointly host the Games with New York in 1984.

"Back then (in 1960), getting teams on to planes and off planes was quite horrific," Loeffler recalled. "They were lifted using hoists."

She added: "Even now in this country, where things have changed so much, it is very difficult for people in wheelchairs to get off trains at Stratford (east London, where the Paralympic Games are being held).

"We are not there yet. There is a way to go."


Medals Table

1China 12 11 5
2United States 10 10 6
3Russia 8 3 6
4France 5 1 2
5United Kingdom 4 2 1
6Italy 3 3 8
7Brazil 2 3 2
8Australia 1 5 2
9Spain 1 3 0
10Canada 1 1 3
11Hungary 1 1 2
12Netherlands, The 1 1 1
13South Africa 1 0 1
14Malaysia 1 0 1
15Sweden 1 0 0
16Japan 0 2 3
17Germany 0 2 1
18Ukraine 0 1 7
19Korea, North 0 1 1
20Mexico 0 1 0
21Poland 0 1 0
22Ecuador 0 1 0
23Belarus 0 0 1

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