This was a pivotal decade for the Paralympics movement.  Not only did the pioneer of the movement pass away in 1980 (Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann) but relations between the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation and the International Olympic Committee became more friendly. 

However, the 1980s began with a growing divergence between Olympics and Paralympics. Through the 1970s the host Olympic nation had hosted the Paralympics as well, even if it took place in another city. In 1972 the  Olympics were at Munich and Heidelberg hosted the Paralympics. In 1976 Montreal hosted the Olympics and Toronto the Paralympics. However, Moscow, the 1980s Olympic host, refused to also stage a Paralympics and instead these took place in Arnhem in the Netherlands.

1980 Arnhem Summer Paralympics

Moscow who hosted the Summer Olympiad declined to host the 1980 Paralympic Games,  so they were held in Arnhem, Netherlands. 1,647 athletes from 42 countries, competing in 489 events in 13 sports.  The GB team of 65 men and 31 women won a total of 64 Gold, 23 Silver and 87 Bronze medals.

1980 Geilo Winter Paralympics

299 athletes from 18 countries, competing in 3 sports.  The GB team of 6 men competed in Alpine and Cross Country skiing.

1984 Innsbruck Winter Paralympics

The first of two consecutive Winter games held at Innsbruck. 419 athletes from 21 countries, competing in 3 sports.  The GB team of 19 men and 3 women won a total of 4 Silver and 6 Bronze medals.

1984 Stoke Mandeville and New York Summer Paralympics

1984 Summer Games were shared between New York and Stoke Mandeville. 2093 athletes from 54 countries, competed in 903 events in 18 sports.  The GB team of 156 men and 68 women won a total of 107 Gold, 112 Silver and 112 Bronze medals.

Archive film footage of the 1984 Stoke Mandeville Games

This footage shows Dorothy Ripley winning gold and the world record in the women's shot put.

The last minute Paralympics

1984 was a difficult year. The USA as the Olympic host nation was intending to stage the Paralympics wheelchair games at Champaign, Illinois. Then with just four months notice the organiser,  the University of Illinois, pulled out due to financial difficulties. To save the day Stoke Mandeville offered to host the games instead.

Read more about this and the full interviews with Keith Delderfield, Douglas Joss and Robert King

South Africa and the Anti-Apartheid Movement

South Africa had been expelled from the Olympics back in 1964 because of its apartheid regime. However it had continued to participate intermittently in Paralympic events. The Dutch parliament banned the team from taking part in the 1980 Arnhem games but the South African team came to Stoke Mandeville in 1984.

1988 Innsbruck Winter Paralympics

377 athletes from 22 countries, competing in 4 sports.  The GB team of 18 men and 3 women won no medals

1988 Seoul Summer Paralympics

1988 Summer Games in Seoul, the first in 24 years to take place in the same city as the Olympic Games; this was the first time the term "Paralympic" came into official use; from 15-24 October. 3,044 athletes from 61 countries, competing in 732 events in 18 sports.  The GB team of 171 men and 55 women won a total of 65 Gold, 65 Silver and 54 Bronze medals.

The closer working relationship between the International Co-ordination Committee of World Sports Organisations for the Disabled (ICC, established in 1982, and made up of the various disabled sports organisations) and the International Olympic Committee led to more collaboration.  So in 1988, the Games was held shortly after the end of the Summer Olympic Games in Seoul.  This was the first Games officially titled the ‘Paralympic Games’ after the International Olympic Committee agreed that the term could be used [the term was coined from the combination of the words paraplegic and Olympic, but it is recognised that it is now the combination of parallel and Olympic that gives us the word Paralympic].  From 1988, it was agreed that the host city awarded the Olympic Games should also host the Paralympic Games afterwards, and the link between the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games was firmly established.  This was followed up in September 1989 by the foundation of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Seoul Reflections by Tony Sainsbury, GB Paralympic Team Manager

Extract from British Paralympic Association Celebratory Handbook

But the occasion which created the most emotional impact was the closing ceremony. This was particularly so, as I was privileged to accompany one of the outstanding athletes in our team, Bob Matthews for the ceremony in his capacity as team flag bearer. Throughout the following hours I described for him everything that was happening visually - the Korean dancers, the tableaus, the dying Paralympic flame and the fireworks.

I hope that Bob’s memory of those final hours were enhanced by my meagre descriptions of a spectacle that was truly breathtaking.

Memories from the 1980s

James Brown winning gold at New York.

Terry Willett, selected to light the 1984 Paralympic flame.

Paul Cartwright, wheelchair racing.

Robin Surgeoner, Seoul opening ceremony memories.

Ernie Guild participation in 3 Paralympic Games.

Tara Flood, competing in the New York and Seoul Games.

Mike Kenny winning gold at 4 games.

Simon Jackson winning gold at Seoul.