By Nick Butler at Stoke Mandeville Stadium

Paralympic flame lit at Stoke Mandeville before London 2012August 29 - The Paralympic Games Torch Relay will feature Stoke Mandeville Hospital in every edition starting from next year, it was announced here today.

A first pilot Ceremony will take place on March 1, 2014, ahead of the Sochi Winter Games which begin a week later and this will start a process which will continue before the Rio 2016 Games and beyond.

This will mark the first occasion in history where the Paralympic Torch Relay has featured somewhere outside the country hosting that particular Games, and after Stoke Mandeville successfully lit the flame before London 2012, it has been hailed as a further boost for the hospital and for the Movement in the UK.

"The Torch Relay is a significant event in the staging of every Paralympics and it is fitting that  for each future edition of the Games we celebrate Stoke Mandeville's rich history and proud heritage as the Paralympic Movement's spiritual birthplace," said Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

"By always hosting a leg of the Paralympic Torch Relay  we are ensuring that the role of Sir Ludwig Guttmann and Stoke Mandeville in helping to create the foundations for what is now one of the world's biggest sporting events is communicated around the world and never forgotten." 

Stoke Mandeville will be involved in all future torch ceremoniesSir Philip Craven [bottom right] sits beside five time Paralympic Para-Dressage champion Sophie Christiansen at the announcing of Stoke Mandeville's future role in all Paralympic Games

But, despite it being something which had been considered after the success of the flame-lighting in 2012, Stoke Mandeville will not go so far as to always light the flame.

This was something addressed by Carl Etholen, Chairperson of the Buckinghamshire Legacy Board, when he explained to insidethegames that "we have to abide by the rules of the [International] Paralympic Committee and it was not something which was feasible."

He elaborated by adding that the Ceremony will be on a smaller scale than the equivalent Olympic one at Olympia in Greece and that it will be based here alongside visits throughout the UK.

"It is still a great opportunity and will bring educational, cultural and sporting benefits for the local community and for the the Paralympic movement in the UK," Etholen said.

"We are over the moon as we knew that we had to do something to build on the legacy in the local community and this is the culmination of a lot of hard work."

Councillor Carl Etholen proved somewhat of a natural at wheelchair archeryCouncillor Carl Etholen proved somewhat of a natural at wheelchair archery after a quick demonstration in the Stoke Mandeville Sportshall

The announcement was made on the one-year anniversary of the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and formed part of celebrations today which also encompassed the unveiling of a giant Agitos - the Paralympic Movement's symbol - as well as a statue of the Games' founder Sir Ludwig Guttmann.

As well as Sir Philip and Etholen, those present included Tim Reddish, chairman of the British Paralympic Association (BPA), and Sophie Christiansen, the Dressage rider who holds a total of five gold medals from Beijing 2008 and London 2012, in addition to three titles from the recent European Championships in Herning.

Other highlights of the day included a wheelchair basketball exhibition match consisting of members of the Great Britain under-23 squad which, despite the friendly occasion, displayed all the sports' customary aggression and drama.

There were also possibilities to watch various other sports including wheelchair archery and wheelchair tennis.

Young wheelchair tennis player Luz Esperanza Merry in actionWheelchair tennis player Luz Esperanza Merry, 12, is ranked in the top ten junior players in the world after previously being a talented able-bodied player

It was fitting however that the final word of the day went to Guttmann in the unveiling of his statue. 

The German spinal injuries doctor created the inaugural Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 which was the forerunner for the Parallel, or Paralympic, Games which were first held in Rome twelve years later.

It is his legacy which has given rise to everything which has followed and it is his memory which will be recognised at all future Paralympic Games Torch Relays' here. 

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