Background to the Games

The idea of organising the Games in Rome, Italy, was proposed by Dr Antonio Maglio (1912-1988) to Dr Guttman in 1958. It was announced that year at the closing ceremony of the International Stoke Mandeville Games by Dr Maglio, who spoke after Dr Guttman.

Black and white photo of Dr Antonio Maglio in Doctors white coat sat behind his desk

Dr Antonio Maglio. Image courtesy of CIP/INAIL

Dr Maglio had been working for the Italian National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (INAIL) since post-world war II. He was running a multi-sport program including track-and-field, swimming, basketball, fencing, table tennis and archery. The program was aimed at reducing mortality and depression in patients. Dr Maglio took athletes to the Stoke Mandeville games in 1956. 

In 1957 Dr Maglio became the Head Physician and Director of the new Paraplegics Centre belonging to INAIL, located at Villa Marina in Ostia (Rome, Italy). The Centre had 38 in-patients but could accommodate up to 100. Dr Maglio organised wheelchair fencing competitions in Ostia and invited Dr Guttman. 

Dr Maglio obtained the patronage of Carla Gronchi, wife of the Italian President of the Republic Giovanni Gronchi, and persuaded the top political and sport authorities in Italy to organise the International Stoke Mandeville Games in the same facilities and residences that would have hosted the Olympic Games in 1960. INAIL supported the event. He went on to play an important role in the foundation of the International federation known today as International Paralympic Committee. Recognising the importance of Dr Maglio’s work, the city of Rome named a road after him in 2003. 

Even though Maria Stella Calà, Dr Maglio’s widow, has maintained his studio and documents, it is reported that no documentation remains about organising the Games.

The build-up to the Games

Logo

The Rome 1960 logo used on the front cover of the Games pamplets was a wheelchair wheel wrapped around the world.

The logo was a wheelchair wheel wrapped around the world. Image courtesy of Margaret Maughan

The logo was the one that had been used for the Stoke Mandeville Games for at least the previous 5 years, a wheelchair wheel wrapped around the world.

Changes to Events

Athletes competed in the same 8 sports that had been in the 1959 International Stoke Mandeville Games, over six days: wheelchair fencing (sabre, foil), snooker, wheelchair basketball, archery, athletics (javelin, club throw, shot put, pentathlon), swimming (backstroke, crawl, breaststroke, relay races), table tennis, and dartchery

Although no new sports were included there were some notable changes to events:

  • 50m swimming events were included for the first time.
  • Women’s table tennis became a separate event.
  • A FITA round (a form of target shooting competition authorised by the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc (FITA)) was added to the archery events.
  • Precision javelin (competitors throw six times at a target of eight concentric rings, scoring from 2 points for the outer to 16 points for the inner rings, aiming to score as many points as possible) was added to the athletics field events.

Venues

  • Acqua Acetosa
    When Dr Guttmann, Joan Scruton (Secretary of the Spinal Centre at Stoke Mandeville) and Charlie Atkinson had visited Rome to help with the preparations it had been agreed that the sports ground, built for the 1960 Rome Olympics, would be used for most of the sports. However, this was later changed and it was only available for the opening ceremony with the events being moved to Tre Fontane, a 40-minute drive from the accommodation. 
  • Tre Fontane Sports Zone
    Created as a training area for the 1960 Rome Olympics.
    As Tre Fontane had no indoor facilities, permission was granted to use the Olympic Village Club House for table tennis events.
    Snooker was actually played outdoors at Tre Fontane, on a table that had been shipped from Stoke Mandeville as snooker was not a popular sport in Italy.
    Used for archery, athletics, basketball, dartchery, fencing and snooker.
  • Piscina Foro Italico
    Built as the warm up pool for the Olympic Games, there were six tiers of seating for spectators.
    Swimming events were held on the last day in front of a large audience.
    Used for swimming.
  • Olympic Village Club House
    Used for table tennis.

The opening ceremony

The Italian Paralympic Team at the opening ceremony of the Rome 1960 Summer Paralympics The Great Britain Paralympic Team at the opening ceremony of the Rome 1960 Summer Paralympics

The Italian and Great Britain Teams at the opening ceremony. Image courtesy of CIP/INAIL

On the 18th September 1960, the Italian Minister of Health, Camillo Giardina, officially opened the Games at the Stadio dell’Acquacetosa. Carla Gronchi, wife of the Italian President of the Republic, and representatives of the embassies of the participating countries also attended. The athletes paraded behind their countries flag in front of 5000 spectators. Great Britain was the first country in the parade as it was recognised as the founding country of the Games. The other countries followed in alphabetical order and Italy as host country closed the parade. 

Morelli, president of INAIL, and Dr Guttman gave official speeches. Guttman thanked INAIL and said that

The meaning of the Games cannot be measured in terms of athletic performance. This sport movement has a greater meaning: it is a source of hope for thousands of people whose life has been shaken by illnesses and injuries.

During the Games

The first athletes to land at Ciampino airport in Rome were from Malta. They arrived on the 14th September on a DC-3 plane with the Maltese cross. The other countries arrived between then and the 17th September. 

Sally Haynes organised the The Finmere show to raise the air fare to transport around 50 wheelchair athletes to the Games. This show included an archery demonstration from patients at Stoke Mandeville hospital including Sally and Lady Susan Masham, a show jumping event, Gymkhana and Donkey Derby. The show was very successful raising £3097.

   Dr Guttmann receiving a cheque from The Finmere Show committee 

The Finmere horse show committee presenting Dr Guttmann with the cheque. 
Left to right: Lionel Vick, Chairman, Jane Tredwell, Secretary, and Sally Haynes, Vice-chairman and Assistant Secretary. Image courtesy of Sally Haynes.

Margaret Maughan recalls the journey to Rome - 

Getting to Rome in 1960! First of all we were put on a coach to go to the airport; we all had to be carried on and our wheelchairs folded and loaded. Then at Heathrow the same thing was done in reverse. It took hours! Then to get us onto the plane they had to use a fork lift with four of us at a time in our chairs on a platform being lifted up onto the plane. Then we had to be lifted into our seats and our chairs folded and put as baggage. At the other end it all took hours more; if you were the last off the plane you were sitting waiting for two hours. But back then that was part of your life; and you just had to accept it.

British athletes photographed in front of a British Airways plane about to fly out to the Rome 1960 Games.

British para athletes and Dr Guttmann flying out to the Rome 1960 Paralympic Games.
Image courtesy of IWAS.

When Dr Guttmann, Joan Scruton (Secretary of the Spinal Centre at Stoke Mandeville) and Charlie Atkinson had visited Rome to help with the preparations it had been agreed that accommodation in the Olympic Village which had lifts and was suitable for paraplegics would be used. However, when the team arrived in Rome they found the accommodation had been changed to some built on stilts, with staircases of 20 steps between floors. 

Dr Maglio invented many useful tools for disabled athletes and for rehabilitation, although he didnt patent them to avoid charges for his Centre. Among his inventions, for the 1960 Games he introduced a bus with an electronic platform allowing wheelchairs to access and dismount the bus easily.

Special events

Entertainment
The fourth day of competitions ended with some folk entertainment: the ‘Balestrieri di Gubbio’ [Crossbowmen from Gubbio, Italy] performed a tournament of ancient crossbow with knights and ladies. 

Pope's Hearing

Black and white photo of para athletes and escorts meeting Pope John XXIII in the San Damaso courtyard, Rome 1960

Image courtesy of INAIL

Athletes and escorts met Pope John XXIII in the San Damaso courtyard on 25th September. After his speech, during which he said

Beloved children, you have given a great example that we love to take as it can be useful to everybody; you showed what an energetic soul can realise, nonetheless the obstacles opposed by the body which seem insurmountable.

the Pope blessed everybody, and, in private, received the organisers of the games.

The Medals

Margaret Maughans gold medal from the Rome Olympics in1960

Margaret Maughan's gold medal in archery. Image courtesy of Margaret Maughan.

Medal design

Read about medal design in the article 'Paralympic medals and how they've evolved' here

Medal statistics

The British team won a total of 20 gold, 15 silver and 20 bronze medals, finishing second of the 17 competing countries in the medals table.

Disclaimer
Information about the earlier Paralympic Games (1960-1988) is incomplete, and often contradictory across sources, therefore final results, medal standings and derived statistics may not be accurate. The statistics are taken from the IPC Historical Results Archive, which is being reviewed by the IPC.

Prominent British Paralympic athletes

Dick Thompson competing in the shot put at Stoke Mandeville Stadium

Dick Thompson, Paralympian. Image courtesy of WheelPower.

  • Dick Thompson
    Earned a mention in the Italian encyclopaedia Treccani, for his ‘extraordinary’ performance in athletics and basketball, winning four gold, one silver, and two bronze medals. 
  • Leo Halford
    Leo won three gold and a silver medal in swimming winning medals in both Class 1 and Class 2 events.
  • Margaret Maughan
    Winner of Britain's first medal at the Rome Games, a gold in archery – find out more about her memories of archery in the 1960s and the Rome Games here. 
  • Barbara Anderson
    A Class 1 tetraplegic, Barbara three gold medals in swimming and a further gold medal in table tennis singles. 
  • Lady Susan Masham
    Won three gold medals and speaks here about her memories of the Games, including losing one of her medals, a fact that she says hit Italian press as they thought she had thrown the medal in Trevi fountain.

GB wheelchair athlete being presented with an award at the 1960 Rome Games

GB wheelchair athlete presented with an award. Image courtesy of INAIL

Media coverage at the event

As observed by Saitta, author of the book ‘Senza Barriere. Antonio Maglio e il sogno delle Paralimpiadi’, the event had way less media attention at the time than the preceding Olympic Games and than today’s Paralympic Games receive. Hence, organisations in multiple countries are collecting and sharing freely information, images, videos, and memories related to this event. Italy has created already in 2016 a website called Memoria Paralimpica [Paralympic Memory] (http://www.memoriaparalimpica.it/#) which archives interviews, photographs, and documentaries about the 1960 games together with other materials about more recent events. 

Dr Maglio also played a role in preserving the memory of the event, directing and curating a movie released by INAIL on the 1960 Games called ‘Giochi paralimpici 1960’ and available on YouTube. The movie starts with the arrival at the airport of the athletes and the greeting between Dr Guttman and Dr Maglio when the Great Britain team landed. 

The closing ceremony

The closing ceremony was held at the Palazzetto dello Sport within the Olympic Village on the evening of 25th September. Carla Gronchi and Dr Guttman were both attending.

The ceremony began with a parade of the participating countries flags carried by the Italian Navy. During the ceremony there were performances of fencing given by the two Italian winners and of the pair table tennis winners.

In his official speech, Dr Guttmann said:

The vast majority of competitors and escorts have fully understood the meaning of the Rome Games as a new pattern of reintegration of the paralysed into society, as well as the world of sport.

References

  • Brittain, I.S. (2012) From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A History of the Summer Paralympic Games. Champaign, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing
  • Saitta L. 2018. Senza barriere. Antonio Maglio e il sogno delle Paralimpiadi. Inail: Milano, Italy. The book is available at https://www.inail.it/cs/internet/comunicazione/pubblicazioni/catalogo-generale/pubbl-senza-barriere.html (accessed 5th January 2019)
  • https://www.paralympic.org/rome-1960
  • https://www.ilpost.it/2012/08/14/paralimpiadi-londra/
  • https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/1960s-part-of-the-olympics
  • Ability Channel Sport e Disabilita’ (Ed.), Blog Comitato Italiano Paralimpico: Paralimpiadi Storia, http://www.londra2012.abilitychannel.tv/storia-paralimpiadi-roma-1960-la-culla-delle-paralimpiadi/
  • Treccani: http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/paralimpiadi_%28Enciclopedia-dello-Sport%29/
  • Wikipedia https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Maglio
  • INAIL, Il video dei Giochi Paralimpici di Roma 1960 (The video of the 1960 Paralympic Games of Rome)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek3VKUDWFZw (accessed 13 Jan 2019)
  • INAIL: https://www.superabile.it/cs/superabile/interventi-inail/20180826-video-storici-inail.html
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek3VKUDWFZw&index=22&list=PLF6E9E91442B4C02B&t=0s
  • Historic Digital Archive of the Italian newspaper l'Unità (https://archivio.unita.news/). Articles:
    17/09/1960 at page 7 ‘Da domani i giochi per paraplegici’
    19/09/1960 at page 5 ‘Aperti i Giochi dei paraplegici’
  • INAIL, Senza barriere. Antonio Maglio e il sogno delle paraolimpiadi (Without barriers - Antonio Maglio and the dream of the Paralympics)
    Video images from the 1960 Games are shown from minute 02:48 to minute 03:12
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUtnWU2Oa0s (accessed 2nd Feb 2019)
  • Interview with Lady Susan Masham: https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/susan-cunliffe-lister
  • https://web.archive.org/web/20081031012134/http://www.la84foundation.org/6oic/OfficialReports/1960/OR1960v1.pdf
  • https://www.britannica.com/sports/FITA-round