Preparing For The 2012 Paralympic Games In London

Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon shares the latest news from London, in the U.K., where athletes and their supporters are limbering up for the Paralympic Games.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

London is gearing up to welcome 4,000 athletes from 140 nations. Sound familiar? In this case, it's the Paralmypic Games, set to open August 29, using many of the same venues as the Olympic Games that just concluded. Medals will be given in track and field events, and judo, sailing, swimming, wheelchair basketball, fencing, rugby, and tennis. And, for the first time, the Paralympic Games will receive considerable television coverage. The NBC Sports Network will air one-hour highlights from the games on September 4th, 5th, 6th, and 11th. NBC will run a 90-minute special on September 16, all of which will be re-run on the Universal Sports Network. The BBC is running a film about the man who founded the Paralympic Games. He was Ludwig Guttman, who was a famous neurologist in Berlin who fled to London when the Nazis came to power. Great Britain gave him shelter. But it would not license German doctors to be surgeons during the war, so Dr. Guttman turned his interests into trying to devise new treatments and therapies to help wounded British soldiers who suffered spinal injuries. His daughter, Eve Loeffler, told Britain's Radio Times this week: He saw soldiers in physiotherapy throwing medicine balls around to strengthen their arms. So he started wheelchair polo, but it got too vicious because they had these little mallets. Then he realized basketball was a good sport. He also introduced archery and fencing. Ludwig Guttman organized the Stoke-Mandeville Games, named for the hospital at which he worked, to run after the 1948 Olympic Games in London. I remember him saying I dream of the time when there will be an Olympic Games for the disabled, his daughter says. That was in the 1950s. He dreamed of it, he could see it happening. And it did.

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