Background to the Games

In November 1985, André Auberger, President of the French Sport Federation for the Disabled, wrote to Michel Barnier, President of the French Olympic bid committee, to ask them to consider hosting the Paralympic Winter Games if the Olympic bid was successful. The Winter Olympics were awarded to Albertville in October 1986 and the following month Barnier confirmed his support. On the 31st January 1987 the International Co-ordinating Committee (ICC) awarded the 1992 Paralympic Winter Games to France, the contract being signed on 22nd April 1989. 

This was the first Winter Paralympics to be held in the same region as the Olympic Winter Games and were the first Paralympic events to be held in France.

At an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) meeting in Lillehammer the Organising Committee of the Winter Paralympics in Tignes (COPTA) made it clear they were not happy with the proposed dates for the Games because they had encountered some problems. They asked for it to be brought forward from March to January which would be a major policy change with the Paralympic Games coming before the Olympics. There was reluctant agreement to the change but the Paralympic athletes were unhappy, saying January was not the best time to compete, but it was the objections of the International Olympic Committee which seems to have forced the original dates to be reinstated.

The Official Report shows the Games, which commenced on the 25th March and ended on the 1st April 1992, cost 41,638,810.98 French Francs and made a profit of 392,471.73 French Francs.

Running the Tignes-Albertville Winter (and Barcelona Summer) Paralympics in 1992 were the last acts of the ICC before it was replaced by the IPC. 

The build-up to the Games

LogoLogo for the 1992 Tignes-Albertville Winter Games

The logo was designed by Jean-Michel Folon and depicts a bird with broken wings flying high over the peak of a mountain and was meant to reflect the abilities of the participating athletes.

Poster

Poster for the Tignes-Albertville 1992 Paralympics

© Ian Brittain

Changes to Events

There were no ice sport events, Tignes had no ice sport venues and apparently, there was a lack of entries for them, so only alpine and nordic events were held.

For the first time, there were demonstration events for intellectually disabled athletes in men’s and women’s giant slalom, 2.5km cross country for women and 5km cross country for men and athletes with visual impairment engaged in biathlon for the first time.

Mascot

Mascot for the Tignes-Albertville 1992 Winter Games

© International Paralympic Committee (IPC)

The games were supported by a mascot called ‘Alpy’ which was designed by Vincent Thiebout. Alpy represented the summit of Grande Motte mountain in Tignes. Additionally, Alpy was shown on a mono-ski which symbolised athleticism. The colours of white, green and blue were used to represent purity, hope and nature, and with blue for discipline/the lake.

The opening ceremony

The Paralympic Cauldron lit at the 1992 Tignes-Albertville Games

The Paralympic Cauldron in Tignes © Ian Brittain

The opening ceremony was held at the foot of the main competition pistes (marked ski runs or paths down a mountain), in an area that was named the Lognan Stadium. 

The countries entered the arena in French alphabetical order and, every 45 seconds, a para-glider in the colours of the country landed in the arena in front of the delegations. 

The Games were officially opened by President Mitterand before the Paralympic flame entered and the cauldron was lit by French Nordic skier Luc Sabatier, helped by Fabrice Guy. 

Six hang-gliders performed an acrobatic display, which had been choreographed by American dancer Dany Ezralow, to music by French composer Michel Colombier with a harmonica solo performed by Belgian musician Toots Thielemans. 

At the end of the ceremony balloons were released to ‘The Ode to Joy’ before the team delegations left the arena.

During the Games

Despite being called the Tignes-Albertville Paralympic Games in all the publicity material, the events all took place in Tignes. For the first time at a Winter Paralympics the athletes were accommodated in an Athlete’s Village rather than hotels. 

It was also the first time doping tests were carried out at a Paralympic Winter Games. A doctor accredited by the French Youth and Sports State Ministry carried out 36 tests which were analysed at the only IOC accredited laboratory in France, the National Doping Detection Laboratory (LAFARGE).

Skiers competing at the 1992 Tignes-Albertville Paralympics

Skiers competing at Tignes ©The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS)

The Medals

Front side of the gold medal from the Tignes-Albertville 1992 Winter Games Reverse side of the gold medal from the Tignes-Albertville 1992 Winter Games

© Ian Brittain

Medal statistics

365 athletes from 24 countries, competed in 3 sports.  The Great Britain team of 14 men and 1 women won a total of 2 silver and 4 bronze medals.

Prominent British Paralympic athletes

  • Matthew Stockford - after breaking his back in a skiing accident in 1985, Matthew competed on a monoski, winning bronze medals in Men's giant slalom LW10, Men's downhill LW10 and Men's super-G LW10.
  • Richard Burt - Richard won silver in Men's giant slalom B3 and bronze in Men's super-G B3.
  • Peter Young - a piano tuner by trade, Peter had represented Great Britain at every Winter Paralympic Games since Ornskoldsvik in 1976 and continued to do so until Nagano in 1998. He also competed in athletics at the 1984 Summer Games.
  • Christine Blackmore - notable as Great Britain’s only female competitor in Tignes-Albertville, Christine also competed in wheelchair tennis in Barcelona in the same year.

Media coverage at the event

300 journalists and 15 television reporters covered the Games.

The closing ceremony

The closing ceremony was held at the Lognan Stadium on the 1st of April 1992 and was attended by Michel Gillibert, State Secretary to the Handicapped and Life Injured and paralysed French sailor Florence Arthaud.

The ceremony ended with the flame being extinguished and a plane, with the broken-winged bird ‘Folon’ symbol, taking off.

References

  • Ian Brittain, From Stoke Mandeville to Sochi: A History of The Summer And Winter Paralympic Games. Common Ground Publishing
  • Bailey, S., 2008, Athlete First: A history of the Paralympic Movement, John Wiley & Sons Ltd
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_at_the_1992_Winter_Paralympics#Opening_ceremony
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Britain_at_the_1992_Winter_Paralympics
  • https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=c747d664-302e-42dc-9680-f4d08777af0a
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_at_the_1992_Winter_Paralympics#Opening_ceremony