Historical overview of the Paralympic movement

This section develops a brief overview of the historical development of the Paralympic movement and Paralympic Games. Its aim is to provide the historical context in which the governance of the Paralympic brand will be discussed.

Evidence suggests that physical activities were used since the early 20th century as part of structured rehabilitation programs for people with a disability (Bailey, 2008). However, with the exception of sport for Deaf people that developed by the end of the 19th century, the structuration of sport for people with a physical impairment only begun in the 1940s (Brittain, 2014; DePauw and Gavron, 1995). At the end of WWII, the British government appointed Dr Ludwig Guttmann as director of the newly established National Spinal Unit Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital (Aylesbury, UK). Dr Guttmann was convinced of the physical, psychological and social benefits of sport in the rehabilitation process of people with a spinal cord injury (Guttmann, 1975). Sports such as archery, table tennis, darts or athletics were introduced at Stoke Mandeville Hospital (Brittain, 2010) and became soon an integral part of the rehabilitation programs for spinally injured patients. Sport for rehabilitation purpose spread nationally and internationally, notably thanks to Dr Guttmann tirelessly promoting his techniques, medical doctors visiting Stoke Mandeville or former patients structuring sport clubs or groups once they returned to civil life (Brittain, 2010).

Another key mechanism that fostered the development of sport for people with a spinal cord injury was the creation of an annual sport competition, the Stoke Mandeville Games. The 1st Stoke Mandeville Games took place on 29 July 1948 and gathered 16 archers, 14 men and 2 women. While it is unknown whether Dr Guttmann planned this or not, the event coincided with the Opening Ceremony of the 14th Olympic Games in London (UK). The Stoke Mandeville Games became international 4 years later (1952), when a team from the Doorn Military

Rehabilitation Centre (The Netherlands) took part in the event. The Gaines, held annually, rapidly grew both in terms of sports practiced and para-athletes involved, all of them being spi— nally injured. As an example, more than 350 athletes from 20 countries competed in 10 sports during the 1958 International Stoke Mandeville Games (Brittain, 2014). The International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation (ISMGF) was created in 1959 with Dr Guttmann as its first president, in order to sustain the growth of the sport movement but also to prepare the 9th International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1960. These were organized in Rome, host city of the 1960 Olympic Games. They took place a few months after the Olympic Games, to stamp these Games with “the Olympic Seal, so consecrating therapeutic roles of sport in paraplegics’ rehabilitationThose Games are today known as the 1st Paralympic Games.

During the 1960s and 1970s, several sports organizations known as International Organizations of Sport for the Disabled (IOSDs) were created to provide sport opportunities to athletes with other ‘groups’ of impairments (i.e. not only athletes with spinal injuries). The IOSDs were structured according to disability and not sport as usually the case in the Olympic movement (Gérard, Legg and Zintz, 2017). In 1963, the International Sports Organization for the Disabled (ISOD) — not to be confused with IOSD — was founded to develop sport opportunities for people with an amputation, visual impairment and for the category ‘Les Autres’ that translates from French as ‘The Others’. Dr Guttmann became its first president in addition to the ISMGF presidency. The Cerebral-Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CP-ISRA) was created in 1978 to oversee sports for people with cerebral palsy. In 1981 the International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) was established on its own to promote sport for people with a visual impairment. Finally, the International Sports Federation for People with a Mental Handicap (INAS-FID) was set up in 1986. These IOSDs largely contributed to the widening of sport participation for different ‘groups’ of athletes with an impairment (Howe, 2008).

Each IOSD developed its own sport rules and controlled games and competitions at the medical and technical levels. To preserve fairness among athletes, classifications systems were developed by each IOSD and categorized athletes according to a medical diagnosis of their impairments. According to Tweedy and Vanlandewijck (2011, p. 262), the medical classification systems “reflected the structure of a rehabilitation hospital, with separate classes for people with spinal cord injuries, amputations, brain impairments and those with other neurological and orthopedic conditions”.

The International Stoke Mandeville Games continued to be held annually in England and organized every four years, when possible, in the same country or city hosting the Olympic Games during the Olympic year. This quadrennial sport competition progressively became what is known today as the Paralympic Games. Over time, the Paralympic Games were opened to various groups of impairments. As such, athletes with an amputation or a visual impairment competed for the first time during the 1976 Torontolympiad (Toronto, Canada) next to athletes with a spinal cord injury. Athletes with cerebral palsy were added to the sport programme at the 1980 Paralympic Games (Arnhem, The Netherlands). Finally, athletes with an intellectual disability were involved in the 1996 Paralympic Games (Atlanta, USA) for the first time.

In 1982, the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of World Sports Organizations for the Disabled was created to coordinate the IOSDs and to control multi-IOSD sport competitions. Its creation also reflected the desire of the IOC to only deal with a single organization for sport for people with an impairment. The ICC was composed of representatives of IOSDs, these organizations remaining fully independent under the ICC umbrella. The ICC functioning was rapidly decried by IOSDs membership that denounced the disability-based structuration of the Paralympic movement as well as the medical classification systems that resulted “in too many parallel events and too many classes, as well as too few participants in too many events”.2

After years of negotiation, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was founded in 1989 by the 6 IOSDs (i.e. ISOD, ISMGF, 1BSA, CP-ISRA, INAS-FID and the Comité International des Sports des Sourds [CISS] founded in 1924) and 31 nations. The IPC designed its structure to be a sport-based organization and established Sport Assembly Executive Committees (SAECs) to harmonize the governance of para-sports. The SAECs also adapted protocols and sport rules in line with the Olympic sports. Forms of integrated classification were also experienced by grouping athletes not according to disability' but according to body functionalities one possessed in a particular sport or discipline (Tweedy and Vanlandewijck, 2011).

The relationships between the Paralympic and Olympic movements progressively strengthened during the 1980s and 1990s. A major step forward occurred in the 2000 when the IOC and the IPC signed a first Cooperation Agreement. This agreement formalized relationships between the two organizations, such as the facts that the IPC president would become an IOC member, more partnerships between commissions would be developed or that the IOC would financially support IPC’s operations. A second agreement signed in June 2001 detailed “the conditions which the IOC agreed to assist the IPC in securing and protecting the organization of the Paralympic games, effectively including the obligation to organize the Paralympic Games in the IOC Host City Contract with the OCOGs This model is known as the “One City Games model" and secured the organization of the Paralympic Games in the same facilities used for the Olympic Games, under identical service standards. Recently the IPC membership voted to renew this model of cooperation until the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

As a not-for-profit organization based in Bonn (Germany), the IPC has a membership of nearly 200 organizations (with 179 National Paralympic Committees, 5 Regional Paralympic Committees, 15 international Sports Federations and 4 IOSDs) and operated on a budget of nearly EUR 22 million in 2017, mainly coming from marketing and sponsorship activities, broadcasting rights and fundraising (IPC, 2017a). Since 2003, the Paralympic symbol is composed of three Agitos (from the Latin meaning “I move”) “encircling a central point symbolize motion, emphasizing] the role of athletes together from all corners of the world to compete” (IPC, 2017b).

The creation of the IPC in the late 1980s signaled a shift from a disability-oriented sport movement, underpinned by a strong medical approach to disability sport, to a sport-based organization that soon focused on promoting elite sport competition for para-athletes. It also marked an increasing professionalization and commercialization of the Paralympic movement. Arguably, this rich and complex history is part of the Paralympic brand and influences its governance.

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