2 Sep 2015
It is exactly one year to go before Stoke Mandeville once again celebrates its position as the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement with a celebration event to mark the lighting of a unique ‘Heritage Flame’ for Rio 2016.
The flame will be created as part of a spectacular ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium held on 2 September 2016 – just five days before the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The flame will then be ‘sent’ virtually to Brazil, where it will merge with the Brazilian Regional Flames to create the Paralympic Flame that will run the relay and light the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony.
Hundreds of invited guests, including Paralympians and representatives from community groups, will attend the special ceremony 68 years after Sir Ludwig Guttmann launched the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948.
Xavier Gonzalez, the Chief Executive of the International Paralympic Committee, said: “Stoke Mandeville is a very special place for the Paralympic Movement as this is where Sir Ludwig Guttmann created the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948, the forerunner of the Paralympic Games as we know them today.
"I am delighted that in one year’s time we will come together again in Stoke Mandeville to celebrate its significance for the Paralympic Movement by lighting the Paralympic Heritage Flame and sending it off to Brazil to form part of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Flame.”
Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of the British Paralympic Association, added: “The Heritage Flame at Stoke Mandeville is a tremendous celebration of its unique position as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement. From its central role in the torch ceremony of the Paralympic Games at London 2012, through to Sochi 2014 and now to Rio and beyond, the Heritage Flame marks a special moment for athletes both former and current and we hope it will inspire those still to come.”
A steering group from the Bucks Legacy Board is already working with partners to ensure the event is a spectacular and memorable celebration.
Councillor Angela Macpherson, speaking on behalf of the Bucks Legacy Board, said: “It’s a great honour for Stoke Mandeville to host the Heritage Flame Ceremony before every summer and winter Paralympic Games. We hope next year’s event will inspire future generations and honour the valuable legacy of Sir Ludwig Guttmann.”
In February last year, the inaugural Heritage Flame was lit at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. The flame lighting ceremony celebrated the start of the winter games in Sochi and included a spectacular firework display after speeches and two specially made videos. It was the first time that a torch lighting element has taken place outside of the host nation.
Artistic director Bradley Hemmings, who was behind the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, choreographed the event. He teamed up with designer Jon Bausor to create an armillary sphere, from which Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockcroft created the flame.
Speaking on the night, Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, said: “From now on, and for all future Paralympic Games, Stoke Mandeville will always stage the first leg of the Paralympic Torch Relay.”
Paralympics GB Paralympic athlete, Gemma Collis, from Aston Clinton, who is currently training hard on her road to Rio, said: “It is fitting that the pioneering work of Sir Ludwig Guttman and the role of Stoke Mandeville as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement is remembered in this way prior to every future Paralympics. Without his work, the Paralympics as we know it may not exist today.
“The Sochi Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony was incredible, and I am sure future celebrations will be the same! I am proud to have grown up in the area, and hope that with every Heritage Flame lighting, Stoke Mandeville will become further celebrated across the world as the spiritual home of the Paralympic Movement."
Before reaching Rio, the torch will be taken to various locations both in the local Buckinghamshire area and around the country to give young people in particular the chance to be inspired.
Stoke Mandeville’s reputation will also receive a further boost this month when it hosts the Para-Badminton World Championships. Around 235 athletes from 36 countries are set to compete in the event at Stoke Mandeville Stadium from 8-13 September.
For more information about the Para-Badminton World Championships visit www.bwfbadminton.org