More stories from the couple who first met volunteering at the 1984 Games

Author: Steve Katon, 24th May 2023

Another look at the 1984 Paralympics in Stoke Mandeville as seen through the eyes of two Aylesbury teenagers, Janette and Liam Redrup. The now married couple met properly at a fundraising disco run by Liam that Janette attended with friends after the 1984 Games, but they recently told us about their memories of the Stoke Mandeville Games where they both volunteered in various capacities.

Janette recalls watching from a distance as ParalympicGB athlete Terry Willett, approached the cauldron in a modified wheelchair that allowed him to move forward with one hand and hold the flame in the other. Janette, like many others present, wondered how the cauldron was actually lit.

Lighting of the Paralympic Flame in 1984

Terry Willett himself solved the mystery:

The Olympic flame was a large bowl over in the far corner of the sports field. Under the base of the bowl there was a man crouching down underneath the frame with a ruddy great gas bottle. I could see him, but he was hidden from all the dignitaries and the crowd. So I came up in the chair with the torch and he said, ‘When you’re ready, Terry’, and I held up the torch and he turned on the gas and that was it: Olympic flame lit; it burned for the entire week of the Games.

Janette watched as many events as she could, often sneaking in. She was in awe of the wheelchair tennis and also enjoyed the archery.
Liam would go on to run many discos in the future, but in 1984 he helped the DJ Steve Hicks run a disco every night of the Games in a large marquee.

Janette and Liam have an enduring memory of the smell of fish and chips at the Games. They told us that a van pulled up to deliver them, and the athletes and volunteers would redeem the vouchers they had been given. The marquee also smelled of stale, spilt beer. Janette remembers a lot of the revellers letting ‘their hair down.’ And as an impressionable teenager was amazed by some of the frenetic wheelchair dancing. It wasn’t unknown ‘for wheelchair athletes to fall out of their chairs on the dance floor.’ All in good fun and with the athletes helping each other to get back in. Another memory was of a Kuwaiti wheelchair athlete, a renowned practical joker, who would climb into a rubbish bin and scream for help as people walked by.

Janette was present at the closing ceremony, holding medals for the marathon, the final event. She remembers feeling sad and tearful when it ended and that it ‘had been an incredible thing to be a part of.’

Finally, Janette recalls how her parents progressed from volunteering at Stoke Mandeville’s cafe to be international referees in Paralympic powerlifting and she was proud to take her own children to London 2012 to see their grandparents volunteering on the world stage.
Things like this all came from the community pulling together back in 1984, without whom the future of the Paralympic Games may well have been very different.