The Paralympic Games are an international athletic competition for people with physical disabilities, held in the same years and venues as the Olympic Games. Paralympic athletes are classified according to their physical disabilities and compete against athletes with similar disabilities. The International Paralympic Committee is responsible for the organization, supervision, and coordination of the Paralympic Summer and Winter Games. The Paralympic Games include events in more than 20 different sports, some of which allow athletes to use wheelchairs during competition.
The Paralympic Games, also called the Paralympics, are an international athletic competition for people with physical disabilities. Originally a portmanteau of the words “paraplegic” and “Olympian,” the word “paralympic” is now a portmanteau of “parallel” and “Olympic” and refers to the fact that the Games are held in the same years and venues as the Games Olympians. Paralympic athletes are classified according to their physical disabilities and compete against athletes with similar disabilities. As of 2012, the Paralympic Games included events in more than 20 different sports, some of which allowed athletes to use wheelchairs during competition.
In 1948 in Stoke Mandeville, England, Sir Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition involving World War II veterans who had suffered spinal cord injuries. In 1952, contestants from the Netherlands joined the games. In Rome in 1960, the games were modeled on the Olympic Games and called the Paralympic Games. That year, the competition included 400 athletes from 23 countries.
In Toronto in 1976, people from different disability groups were added to the Summer Paralympics for the first time. In the same year, the Paralympic Winter Games were held in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. In 2008, when the Summer Paralympics were held in Beijing, the games grew to involve more than 4,200 athletes from 148 countries. Like the Olympics, the Summer and Winter Paralympics are each held every four years, always in even-numbered years, and alternate so that one is always held two years after the other.
International Paralympic Committee
Since 1988, the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games have been held on the same venues as the Olympic Games, following an agreement between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The IPC is responsible for the organisation, supervision and coordination of the Paralympic Summer and Winter Games. The stated mission of the IPC is to enable disabled athletes to achieve excellence in sport and thereby ‘inspire and excite’ others around the world.
Paralympic athletes originally consisted only of those in wheelchairs. The disability classifications now include athletes who have vision impairments, those who have spinal injuries, those who have cerebral palsy, and those who have had amputations or have at least one major part of a limb or joint missing. There is also a classification called Les Autres, which is French for “the others”. This classification includes physical disabilities that do not fit into the other classifications. Athletes of the Les Autres classification could compete with those of another classification in some sports, depending on their functional abilities.
Athletes who have intellectual disabilities that impair them in track and field have not competed in the Paralympics as of 2012. These athletes are eligible to participate in the Special Olympics, which is a separate event from the Paralympics. The Special Olympics Summer and Winter World Games are also held on an alternating basis, each four years, two years after the other, but held in odd-numbered years.
Summer Paralympic Games events include competitions in sports such as archery, volleyball, swimming, table tennis, and track and field, which some refer to as track and field. The summer games also include competitions in judo, cycling, football, shooting and other sports. Wheelchair friendly events include basketball, tennis and rugby. Among the winter events of the Paralympic Games are alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. An ice sled is essentially a small sled that the athlete sits on and glides across the ice as the athlete uses their hands to push the ice off.