Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

An Interview with Dr Robert Steadward, President of the International Paralympic Committee

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

An Interview with Dr Robert Steadward, President of the International Paralympic Committee

Article excerpt



Dr Robert Steadward has been the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) only president since its inception in 1989. Within the Olympic movement, he is an active IOC member having roles on the 2000 Commission on Reform and Olympic Truce Foundation.

He has also been an integral driving force behind the growth and development of the Paralympic Games. The Games themselves have their historical roots dating back to 1948 when Sir Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition involving World War II veterans with a spinal-cord injury in Stoke Mandeville, England. Olympic-style games for athletes with disabilities were then organized for the first time in Rome in 1960 with the Toronto Games in 1976 being the first time that other disability groups besides those with spinal-cord injuries participated.

Today, the Paralympics are an elite sport event for athletes with disabilities from a variety of disability groups, with the number of athletes participating in Summer Paralympic Games increasing from 400 athletes in Rome in 1960 to over 4,000 at Sydney, 2000. Since the VIII Paralympic Summer Games (Seoul 1988) and the V Paralympic Winter Games (Tignes 1992), the Paralympic Games have taken place at the same venues as the Olympic Games. The VIII Paralympic Winter Games will take place in Salt Lake City, USA, in 2002, the XII Paralympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004 and the IX Paralympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, in 2006.

As the IPC and the Paralympic Games have evolved, so too have the marketing goals. Here Dr Steadward (RDS) talks with David Legg (DL) of Mount Royal College about how the IPC's marketing capabilities have evolved, the challenges facing the IPC, and current issues facing the IPC's marketing efforts.

DL: Please review how the IPC has been marketed, not necessarily since the official beginning of the Paralympic movement, but more since the advent of disability sport.

RDS: The modern history of sport for people with disabilities centered on the Stoke Mandeville hospital in England following the Second World War. I think that people have to keep in perspective, however, that this is what the history books say, but there were other programs going on around the world as well. In Canada there were a lot of physical activity, education and sport programs for persons with disabilities, before, during and after the First World War. These types of events also occurred in the United States. So even though Stoke formally started the disability sport program, there were other sport programs (for persons with disabilities) going on. We can, of course, use Stoke as a starting point and / or measuring stick, but I still think it is important to recognize these other events.

What we have to recognize is that, at the time, Stoke Mandeville was only concerned with spinal injuries so it really took a significant amount of time before other disability groups started. This interest came to the foreground in 1964 when Sir Ludwig Guttmann started to interact with other Europeans as they dealt with sport for other disabilities such as visual impairments. Rather than create another organization, Guttmann developed the International Sport Organization for the Disabled (ISOD) to bring everyone under one umbrella. It was not until 1975, when the first international disability sport games were held at Stoke Mandeville with blind and amputee athletes.

DL: Prior to 1976, was the Paralympic movement focused only on spinal-cord injuries?

RDS: Yes. Up until the 1976 Paralympics in Toronto. However, before that there were multi-disability games in North America. In fact the first Pan American Games (for the disabled) were held in Winnipeg in 1967 and these games were not just for those with spinal injuries but also for amputees, etc. Canada had already hosted integrated multi-disability games during the 1960s and 1970s but was not able to take amputee athletes who used wheelchairs to the Stoke Mandeville Games as they only allowed competitors with spinal injuries. …

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