Background to the Games

The 1976 Games were held in the city of Toronto. There had been immense tension amongst the participating nations as permitting South Africa to participate in the Games was seen as giving implicit approval to apartheid. As a result, eight countries withdrew on the order of their governments and the Canadian Federal Government withdrew its’ five hundred-thousand-dollar contribution.

The build-up to the Games

Logo

Logo for the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games. Called the

Image courtesy of the IPC

Poster

Poster advertising the 1976 Toronto Games

Image courtesy of Ian Brittain, From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford

The logo was designed by Dr Peter G. Robinson who was a Toronto graphic designer. The equilateral triangle represents the pyramid of the international sports movement for the disabled. The blue colour representing paraplegics, magenta representing the amputees and the orange/red colour representing the blind or visually impaired athletes. The human-like figure represents achievement as well as representing the handicapped ability to rise above disability through participation in sport. The three rings representing the traditional symbol of the Stoke Mandeville Games which are 'friendship, unity and sportsmanship'.

Changes to Events

Two sports were added, namely goalball for the blind and visually impaired and standing volleyball for the amputees – this being the first time these disability groups were represented at the Games. 

Having been demonstrated at previous International Stoke Mandeville Games, shooting became a medal sport.

Venues

Woodbine Racetrack
A horse racing track, opened in 1956.
Used for the opening ceremony.

Centennial Park Fields
Used for archery, dartchery, equestrian.
Spectator capacity – 3000.

Centennial Park Olympium
Built in 1975 ahead of the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games.
Used for goalball, standing volleyball, wheelchair basketball.

Centennial Park Stadium
Built in 1975.
Used for athletics.
Spectator capacity – 2200.

Centennial Park West Arena
Built in 1967, the double padded arena is located in Centennial Park in Etobicoke.
Used for table tennis, weightlifting, wheelchair fencing.
Spectator capacity – approx. 3500.

Etobicoke Lawn Bowling Club
Used for lawn bowls.

No. 2 Division Police Facilities
Police shooting range.
Used for shooting.

Seneca School
A multiple-campus college which opened in 1967.
Used for snooker.

The opening ceremony

The opening ceremony for the Games took place on Tuesday 3rd August at the Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. The attendance was around 24,000 people. The spectators were entertained by the Kalev Estienne Rhythmic Gymnasts, The Jim Skye Six-Nations Dancers and Trick Riding Show along with a musical ride by the Metropolitan Toronto Police, accompanied by the Royal Regiment of Canada. 

The Guest of Honour and Games Patron (after Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declined the role because of the involvement of South Africa) was Pauline Mills McGibbon, who was the 22nd Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and her husband Donald McGibbon, they were escorted by the Metropolitan Police. Other dignitaries included Mr William G. Davis, Prime Minister of the Ontario Government, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Government of Toronto and Dennis Flynn who was the Mayor of Etobicoke. 

The Lieutenant Governor, William G. Davis, Dr. Robert Jackson and Dr Guttman took the salute of the Parade of Nations. The Games were then officially open, and the flame was lit by three participants representing the various impairment groups.

During the Games

Due to the addition of new impairment groups, finding, as well as allocating, suitable accommodation for athletes was difficult. York University accommodated wheelchair athletes while others were housed at the University of Toronto and Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

For security reasons, the Israeli athletes were housed at a discrete location. 

As the accommodation was not close to the event locations school buses were hired, and loading docks built, to transport athletes to and from the events.

The Medals

Silver medals from the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games

Image of Toronto 1976 Paralympic silver medals courtesy of Ian Brittain

On one side, the medal has a motif or six petals coming together, with each petal displaying three interlocking wheels, the logo of the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation. At the top are the words 'Everyone Wins', encircled by '1976 Toronto Olympiad' written in braille. 

The other side has a single, enlarged petal, with the three rings and the official event name, the 1976 Olympiad for the Physically Disabled.

Medal statistics

Great Britain won 29 Gold medals, 28 Silver medals and 37 Bronze medals, finishing 5th of the 41 competing countries in the medal 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

  • Jane Blackburn
    Won gold in table tennis. Read more about Jane, who also competed in archery, lawn bowls and athletics, here.

Jane Blackburn receiving the gold medal for table tennis at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games

Jane Blackburn receiving the gold medal for table tennis at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games.
Image courtesy of Ian Brittain.

  • Mike Kenny
    A tetraplegic swimmer, Mike won three gold medals, setting new world records in each event. He would go on to become the most successful British Paralympian in terms of gold medals won. Read how he got in to swimming in this interview.
  • Margaret Maughan
    Won silver at lawn bowls and dartchery. Margaret won the first gold medal at the Rome 1960 Games in archery. Read more about Margaret here

Women wheelchair athletes playing bowls. Umpire to the back of them.

Margaret Maughan, GB Paralympic team, competing against Austria at lawn bowls.
Image courtesy of Margaret Maughan.

  • James Muirhead
    A swimmer and won two gold and two silver medals at the Games.
  • Sue Sherrill
    Won two gold medals in backstroke swimming events.
  • Cyril Thomas
    Won one gold and one silver medal in fencing.
  • Monica Vaughan
    An amputee who competed in swimming as well as being the only female member of the amputee, standing volleyball team. She won gold in the 100m for each swimming stroke and in the 4x50m individual medley and silver in volleyball.
  • Terry Willett
    Won gold in wheelchair fencing (epee).Terry used swimming & fencing as rehabilitation after his spine injury and went on to compete in wheelchair basketball. Read more about Terry here

Terry Willett fencing on his way to winning gold at the Toronto 1976 Paralympics

Terry Willett fencing his way to winning gold at 
the epee. Image credit: Terry Willett

Terry Willett after winning gold at the epee.

Terry Willett in front of the score board after winning gold. Image credit: Terry Willett

Media coverage at the event

The 1976 Paralympic Games marked the first time the Games were broadcast daily on television, reaching more than 600,000 viewers in Southern Ontario.

The closing ceremony

The Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games came to a close on Wednesday 11th August 1976 at Centennial Park Stadium. The ceremony began with the entrance of all the countries with Canada at the end. This was then followed by the awarding of the Carling O’Keefe Brewery award for the most outstanding athlete which was given to Canada's Arnie Boldt an amputee athlete who cleared 1.86m in the high jump competition.  

The closing speech was given by the chairman of the organising committee, Dr Jackson, before the closing song was sung by Kevin Page. The flag was then folded and put away by Dr Guttmann for safekeeping. The athletes and officials then made their way to the University of York where an evening’s entertainment was laid on in the beer tent.

References

  • https://www.paralympic.org/toronto-1976/medals [Accessed 25 May 2019]. 
  • https://www.paralympic.org/toronto-1976
  • https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1010783/1976-toronto
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1976_Summer_Paralympics
  • http://canadasports150.ca/en/paralympic-games/1976-paralympic-games-toronto/57
  • https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=22&ved=2ahUKEwiN6rSf-bbiAhUYSxUIHWlpAQM4FBAWMAF6BAgBEAI&url=https%3A%2F%2Fpureportal.coventry.ac.uk%2Ffiles%2F3976727%2Ffromstoke1.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2jAqF1tYoy0B1KxJDHKsS1
  • https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/19516515
  • https://torontoist.com/2014/06/historicist-torontolympiad-76/
  • http://www.memorialdainclusao.org.br/en/expositions/tour-virtual/room-04/parasports/paralympic-games/1976-toronto-canada/
  • http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/paralympics/2008-08/29/content_6981822.htm