Background to the Games

The Winter Games were first suggested by the Swedish delegation at the annual general meeting of the International Sports Organisation for the Disabled (ISOD) in 1974. 18 months later in 1976, the first winter games, known as the 'Winter Olympic Games for the disabled', were held between the 21st and 28th of February in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.

The build-up to the Games

LogoLogo of the 1976 Örnsköldsvik Winter Games

Literally translated, Örnsköldsvik means 'eagle shields bay'. As can be seen above, the logo has a large eagle carrying a shield over a body of water, with an alpine skier and a cross-country skier representing the two medal sports featured in the games.

PosterPoster advertising the 1976 Örnsköldsvik Winter Games

Events

Newspaper clipping of a competitor at the Ornskoldsvik 1976 Winter Games  

With events in alpine and nordic skiing for amputee and visually impaired athletes and ice sledge racing as a demonstration sport, these were the first Games to enable athletes with a variety of categories of disability to compete.

Cross-country skiing at the Örnsköldsvik 1976 Paralympic Winter Games

The opening ceremony

Opening ceremony of the 1976 Örnsköldsvik 1976 Winter Games

Little is known about the opening ceremony which was held on Saturday 21 February in the Kempehallen arena (an indoor sporting arena built in 1964 and home to the MODO ice hockey club) watched by an estimated 1500 spectators. 

Bertil Löfberg, Regional Governor of the County of West Norrland, had the honour of declaring the Games open.

Medal statistics

The British team did not win any medals.

British Paralympic athletes

  • Mike (Michael) Brace competed in Men's Middle Distance 15 km A and Men's Short Distance 10 km A cross-country events, going on to represent Britain at several World and European Championships and each Winter Paralympics until Lillehammer in 1994. From 1988 until 1994 he also managed the cross-country ski team.
    He was subsequently appointed as Chef de Mission for the Great Britain Team for the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano, then Director of ParalympicsGB for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, in 2001 he was elected as Chairman of the British Paralympic Association (BPA), performing the role of Head of Delegation at all Paralympic Games from 2002 to 2008. In the 2005 New Year’s Honours List he was awarded an OBE for Services to Disabled Sport and, in the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, a CBE for his contribution to Disabled Sport.
  • Brothers Derek and John Howie both competed in Men's Middle Distance 15 km B, Men's 3x10 km Relay A-B, Men's Short Distance 10 km B cross-country events. At the Toronto 1976 Games they both competed in athletics and John also competed in swimming, making them the first British competitors to have competed at both Winter and Summer Games.
  • Peter Young, a piano tuner, had only started skiing in 1974 at the age of 18 when he went to Norway for a party, competed in the same events as the Howie brothers. In 1999 the Council of the Ski Club of Great Britain awarded him the Pery Medal for an outstanding contribution to snowsports, the commendation can be read here.
  • Graham Salmon competed in the Men's Middle Distance 15 km A and Men's Short Distance 10 km A, subsequently he represented Britain in athletics at the Arnhem 1980 and the New York/Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games.
  • Michael Hammond was Britain’s sole representative in alpine skiing, competing in the Men’s Slalom and Giant Slalom, category II. He went on to represent Britain in a further six Paralympics as well as World and European Championships.

The closing ceremony

The King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, visited several sites around Örnsköldsvik, accompanied by Bertil Löfberg, the Regional Governor of West Norrland, before officially declaring the Games closed in front of an estimated 4000 spectators.

Reference list

  • Brittain, I.S. (2012) From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A History of the Summer Paralympic Games. Champaign, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing.
  • Brittain, I. (2014) 'A brief history of the development of sport for people with disabilities in Europe' in M. Leblanc, M. Faure and S. Landa (Eds). Sport and Disability in Europe: Which training for the coaching staff? (pp: 41-50). Varennes-Vauzelles, France: Sport et Citoyenneté. http://sportetcitoyennete.com/
  • https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1013220/the-first-winter-paralympic-games-were-held-in-1976-in-oernskoeldsvik-sweden
  • https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277606715_The_evolution_of_the_winter_Paralympic_games_and_sports
  • http://www.mikebrace.co.uk/biography/
  • https://www.paralympic.org/sdms4/hira/web/competition/Örnsköldsvik-1976
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_at_the_1976_Winter_Paralympics#Opening_Ceremony – quoting Britain, Ian (2014). From Stoke Mandeville to Sochi : A History of the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. Champaign, Ill: Common Ground Publishing.
  • https://sweden.se/society/the-swedish-monarchy/
  • https://www.sno.co.uk/ski-holidays/senior-ski-holidays/
  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sport/winter_olympics_98/62043.stm
  • https://www.barkinganddagenhampost.co.uk/news/post-memories-blind-dagenham-paralympian-s-life-to-be-celebrated-in-new-book-1-5004978
  • https://www.skiclub.co.uk/news-and-events/inspire-awards/the-pery-medal