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Paralympic Summer Games -- Rome 1960

With the groundbreaking decision to hold the 1960 Games in the Olympic city of Rome, Sir Ludwig Guttmann's vision of an international games the equivalent of the Olympics was realized. In 1958, Guttmann and Professor Antonia Maglio, Director of the Spinal Center at the Italian institute INAIL, had started preparations to stage the International Stoke Mandeville Games in Rome. The 1960 Games were officially recognized as the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games. The term "Paralympic Games" was only approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later in 1984.

The first Games saw some teething problems. The athletes village was not completely wheelchair-accessible. Athletes had to be carried up and down stairs. Military personnel stepped in to assist. While most of the competitions were held in the village area, Athletics and Basketball were held some distance from the village. Innovative transport arrangements had to be made.

The Games were held from 19 to 24 September under the auspices of the INAIL and the Italian Olympic Committee, six days after the Closing Ceremony of the XVII Olympic Summer Games. The Opening Ceremony on 18 September saw a crowd of 5,000 spectators greeting the colorful entry of the wheelchair athletes at the Acqua Acetosa stadium. Camillo Giardina, the Italian Minister for Public Health, declared the Games open. It was the largest international games to date with 400 athletes from 23 countries, the largest delegation coming from Italy.

The competitive programme included eight sport events considered beneficial and suitable for athletes with spinal cord injuries: Snooker, Fencing (foil or sabre), Javelin and Precision Javelin, Shot Put, Indian Club Throwing (throwing a baton), men's Basketball and Swimming (Freestyle, Breaststroke and Backstroke). Other events were: Table Tennis (singles and doubles), Archery, Dart Archery and the Pentathlon (Archery, Swimming, Javelin, Shot Put and Club Throwing).

Among the many outstanding individual performances were those by Franco Rossi of Italy in Fencing, Dick Thompson of Great Britain in Athletics, and Ron Stein of the USA in the Pentathlon and Athletics. In Basketball, the Americans shone and took the gold, beating Israel and Holland. Fencing was dominated by the Italian team, which won all nine medals in the foil and sabre events. Medals were presented in 57 events. Italy won the most medals, with Great Britain and the USA close behind.

The Closing Ceremony on 25 September was held in the Palazetto dello Sport in the Olympic village in the presence of the Patron of the Games, Donna Carla Gronchi, and Sir Guttmann. Guttmann summed up the Games thus, "The vast majority of competitors and escorts have fully understood the meaning of the Rome Games as a new pattern of re-integration of the paralyzed into society, as well as the world of sport."

(Credit: IPC. Click here for further information.)

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