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Paralympic flame returns to Stoke Mandeville

    Sir Ludwig Guttmann
    Sir Ludwig Guttmann

    Tributes were paid to the Jewish doctor who founded the Paralympics as the flame was brought to the hospital where it all began.

    Sixty four years after Sir Ludwig Guttmann organised the first games for disabled patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the Paralympic Games have returned to London.

    Sir Ludwig was a pioneering neurosurgeon who was forced to flee Nazi Germany before the Holocaust. Appointed to Stoke Mandeville during the war, the doctor known affectionately as "Poppa" was an eccentric and charismatic figure who argued that paralysed patients required physical stimulation in order to rehabilitate.

    He died in 1980 but his daughter, Eva Loeffler – who has the honorary title of mayoress of the Paralympic Village – was at Stoke Mandeville last night as 3,000 onlookers greeted the torch. Among them were London mayor Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

    Mrs Loeffler said her father would have been delighted beyond belief at "the amazing sporting spectacle we are about to witness".

    "Even he could not have known that lighting a spark in the hearts, minds and bodies" would grow into the modern Paralympics", she said.

    "If it were not for Ludwig Guttmann...there would be no Paralympics," added Mr Hunt.

    The flame has now been lit four times on the highest peaks of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is being carried from Stoke Mandeville into London and to the Olympic Park. The Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games takes place this evening from 8pm.

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