Sunday, 26 August 2012

Thank God For Those With Vision And Humanity

It's been a while! This month has literally been a washout to match our Cumbrian weather and next month isn't looking all that fruitful either. So much going on and I can already feel my writing being pushed further away. It's a mental battle trying to maintain balance in work and life but it's one which must be won.

The summer it seems has been taken up with the Olympics. Brilliant as they were I must confess that never before have I watched so much sport. Clearly because we are the host country, Olympic mania has evolved and so it was difficult to avoid the Games each time I turned on the television.

Equine sports is my thing. I love horses and used to have my own scatty, loving chestnut mare, so it was fantastic to watch our British Equine Olympians having a fruitful time, winning medals. (yes, more than one)

And don't forget the diving. I made myself watch those events. I'm not into diving by any means but I wanted to show my support for our Olympic hopefuls, one young man in particular -Tom Daley. He is fantastic and has so much ahead of him so it will be exciting to watch him at the next Olympics. Having overcome his own personal tragedy, he gave a fantastic performance winning Bronze for his country. Good on you, Tom and all the best.

Now it's the Paralympics. My ignorance of the origins of these events came to the forefront recently, with the BBC's dramatisation of The Best of Men. It highlighted the arrival of Dr Ludwig Guttman in 1943 to Stoke Mandeville Hospital. He was to care for the spinal injury patients who were injured during World War Two. He basically revolutionized spinal injury rehabilitation, turning the lives of many around, showing them they did indeed have purpose and quality of life. He was to be their beacon, lighting their path to their future, albeit a different future, but a life worth living. He was the herald who began to break down barriers at a time when the common attitude was to think that such injured people were worthless, damaged and should be shut away from the eyes of the world.

Statue of Ludwig Guttman at Stoke Mandeville Stadium

Ludwig Guttman was a Jew who fled Nazi Germany just prior to the beginning of war. Prior to that he was the director of a Jewish hospital in Breslau. He ordered his staff there to admit anyone to the hospital, following the violent attacks on Jewish people on the 9th November 1938, which was known as Kristallnacht. By doing so, he saved 60 people from being arrested and sent to the concentration camps.

In 1948 he organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games, beginning on the first day of the London Olympic Games. It was an event which grew tremendously and in 1961, Dr Guttman founded the British Sports Association for the Disabled, later known as Disability Sport Events. He was a determined man of vision and a true humanitarian and we are blessed that he fled to our shores some 73 years ago.