IWAS at 70 – a brief history


The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) came into being in 2002, but the history of the organisation stretches back much further than that.

In fact on Tuesday, 26 July 2022 the organisation and its forebears will celebrate their seventieth anniversary of their involvement in sport for the disabled.

The organisation as we know it today grew out of the Stoke Mandeville Games, started at Stoke Mandeville Hospital near Aylesbury, United Kingdom by a German Jewish neurosurgeon, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who was asked by the British Government in 1944 to begin a new spinal injuries centre at the hospital to take care of the many service personnel and civilians who had received spinal injuries during World War II.

As part of this process Guttmann introduced sport and physical exercise as part of the rehabilitation programme, partly as a way to show non-disabled society that people with spinal injuries could still be active and productive members of society. This aim still underpins much of the work done in Para sport today.

After several years of finessing the process Guttmann held the first competition between two teams of archers from Stoke Mandeville and the Royal Star and Garter Home for Injured War Veterans in Richmond, Surrey.

The event took place on Thursday July 29 1948 – the same day as the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games at Wembley. This link with the Olympic Games is one Guttmann continued to promote all of his life.

Read the full blog from IWAS Heritage Advisor, Dr. Ian Brittain, on Inside the Games