Symbolizing ‘spirit in motion’, the Paralympics world has proved to be equally excellent, and rather more inspiring than the Olympics. However, we rarely know much about this world. Here is a collection of twenty six interesting facts about the Paralympics.
The term ‘Paralympics’ has nothing to do with paralysis or paraplegia. In Greek, ‘para’ means ‘besides or alongside’, suggesting that the games run parallel to the Olympics.
Although a serious approach to competitive gaming events for the physically handicapped seems to be a more recent phenomenon, sports for impaired athletes has existed since over a hundred years. Berlin is known to have housed the first sports clubs for deaf people, in the year 1888.
It was especially after World War II that sporting activity was ushered in for injured war veterans. The magnanimity of the war left a large impact on the minds of the masses; enough to work towards avoiding resurgence of something like WWII. Inadvertently though, what began as a rehabilitation activity for war veterans went on to become what we today know as the Paralympics.
Interesting Facts About the Paralympics
The Paralympics is the second-largest sporting event in the world after the Olympic Games.
The symbol of the Paralympics combines three most common colors used in national flags – red, blue, and green. The logo showing the shape of an ‘Agito’ (meaning ‘I move’ in Latin) stands for the asymmetrical crescent shape that was specifically designed for the Paralympic movement.
The term ‘Paralympic’ was first used officially during the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
It is a multi-sport competition, allowing people with different disabilities, like amputation, paraplegia, quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, spina bifida, vision impairment, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, and intellectual impairment to compete together. There are ten separate categories established by the International Paralympic Committee, the paralympic governing body.
The motto of the Paralympic Games is ‘Spirit in Motion’.
Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist, on a request put forth by the British government, set up a spinal injuries center in 1944 at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain. From a rehabilitation and recreational activity, sports turned into a competitive activity.
It was on 29 July 1948, at the Opening Ceremony of the 1948 London Olympic Games, that Dr. Guttmann organized the first ever competition for wheelchair athletes. It was named the Stoke Mandeville Games. A total of 16 injured servicemen and women participated in archery.
George Eyser, a German-American gymnast, was the first disabled athlete to compete at the Summer Olympics, in 1904. Although he used a wooden prosthesis in place of his left leg, he won three gold, two silver, and a bronze medal, in just one day of events.
In the Summer Olympics of 1948 and 1952, Karoly Takacs, a right-arm amputee from Hungary competed in shooting events.
Also, Lis Hartel, an equestrian from Denmark, won a silver medal at the 1952 Olympics in the dressage event. She had been permanently paralyzed below her knees due to polio.
The ‘Sighted Guides’ for visually impaired athletes are a very crucial part of the competition. The guide and the athlete are considered a team; both qualify as medal candidates.
The International Stoke Mandeville Games were established in 1952, when Dutch ex-servicemen joined the movement.
The first Paralympics was held in the year 1960, in Rome, Italy. 400 athletes from 23 countries participated then.
Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, hosted the first Paralympic Winter Games in 1976. Both, the Summer and Winter Games continue to take place every four years since then.
To provide for opportunities for sportspersons, including amputees, visually impaired, persons with cerebral palsy, and paraplegics, who were not associated with the International Stoke Mandeville Games, the International Sport Organization for the Disabled (IOSD) was formed in 1964.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Olympic Committee have signed an agreement to host the Paralympic Games in the same city and venues as the Olympic Games. This came into force since the 1988 Summer Games at Seoul, Korea, and the 1992 Winter Games at Albertville, France.
Courage, determination, inspiration, and equality are given as the core paralympic values. The vision of the IPC is ‘To enable para-athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world’.
The Russian Paralympic team topped the standings at the 2010 Winter Games held at Vancouver, whereas the performance of the Russian Olympic team was below expectations. This led the media to highlight the success of Paralympic sport as compared to the Olympics which receives most of the funding.
The Summer Paralympics comprises more than 20 sports, and the Winter Paralympics includes five sports.
Events include archery, shooting, athletics, triathlon, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair dance sport, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair curling, swimming, cycling, alpine skiing, biathlon, canoe, powerlifting, taekwondo, equestrian, table tennis, soccer 5-a-side, soccer 7-a-side, sitting volleyball, boccia, goalball, sailing, shooting, judo, and rowing.
Out of all events, only four – goalball, boccia, wheelchair rugby, and powerlifting are not played at the regular Olympics.
The 1976 Summer Games, for the first time included athletes with different disabilities. Until then, only sportspersons in wheelchairs were allowed to compete.
Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter, successfully qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and competed in two events.
The Special Olympics World Games are organized for athletes with intellectual disabilities, whereas, the Deaflympics is a platform for deaf athletes.
The 2016 Paralympics will be hosted by Rio from the 7th to 18th September.