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Home > China Travel Guide > Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics Travel Guide > Paralympic Games

Paralympic Games History and Introduction

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The Paralympic Games are an elite multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities. This includes mobility disabilities, amputees, visual disabilities and those with cerebral palsy. The Paralympic Games are held every four years, following the Olympic Games, and are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). (The Paralympic Games are sometimes confused with the Special Olympics, which are only for people with intellectual disabilities.)

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Paralympic Game History

Sir Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition in 1948 which became known as the Stoke Mandeville Games, involving World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries; in 1952 competitors from the Netherlands took part in the competition, giving an international notion to the movement. The first Olympic-style games for athletes with a disability were held in Rome in 1960; officially called the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games, these are considered to be the first Paralympic Games. The first Winter Paralympics were held in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden in 1976.

Since 1988, the Summer Paralympics have been held in the conjunction with the Olympic Games in the same host city. This practice was adopted in 1992 for the Winter Paralympics, and became an official policy of the International Olympic Committee and the IPC following a June 19, 2001 agreement. The Games take place three weeks after the closing of the Olympics, in the same host city and using the same facilities. Cities bidding to host the Olympic Games must include the Paralympic Games in their bid, and typically both Games are now run by a single organizing committee.

In the 1996 Atlanta Games athletes with intellectual disabilities were allowed to participate for the first time. However following cheating in the 2000 Sydney Games, in which non-disabled athletes were entered in the Spanish Basketball ID team , such athletes were banned by the IPC . Following an anti-corruption drive, the International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability (INAS-FID) lobbied to have these athletes reinstated. Beginning in 2004, athletes with an intellectual disability began to be re-integrated into Paralympic sport competitions, although they remain excluded from the Paralympic Games. The IPC has stated that it will re-evaluate their participation following the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

The name derives from the Greek "para" ("beside" or "alongside") and thus refers to a competition held in parallel with the Olympic Games. No relation with paralysis or paraplegia is intended.


Disability categories

Amputee: An athlete with a partial or total loss of at least one limb.

Cerebral Palsy: People who have non-progressive brain damage, for example cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke or a similar problem affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.

Intellectual Disability: An athlete who has a significant impairment in intellectual functioning with associated limitations in adaptive behaviour. This category is currently suspended.

Wheelchair: For all athletes with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities which require them to compete in a wheelchair. Athletes must have at least 10 per cent loss of function to their lower limbs.

Vision-Impaired: Athletes who have a vision impairment ranging from partial vision (sufficient to be judged legally blind) to total blindness.

Les Autres: French for the others and includes competitors with a mobility impairment or other loss of physical function that does not fall strictly under one of the other five categories. Dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or birth deformities of the limbs such as that caused by thalidomide are examples of this.

The categories apply for both summer and winter paralympics.

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Paralympic Game Sports


Summer Paralympic sports

The following sports are currently on the Summer Paralympic Games programme:

Athletics (track and field)
Football 5-a-side
Football 7-a-side
Table Tennis
Wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair fencing
Wheelchair rugby
Wheelchair tennis
Volleyball (sitting)
These sports will be part of the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.

Winter Paralympic sports

The following sports are on the current Winter Paralympic Games programme:

Alpine skiing
Ice sledge hockey
Nordic skiing
Cross-country skiing
Wheelchair curling


List of Paralympic Game Sports

Summer Paralympic Games

1960 Summer Paralympics I, Rome, Italy
1964 Summer Paralympics II, Tokyo, Japan
1968 Summer Paralympics III, Tel Aviv, Israel
1972 Summer Paralympics IV, Heidelberg, Germany
1976 Summer Paralympics V, Toronto Ontario, Canada
1980 Summer Paralympics VI, Arnhem, Netherlands
1984 Summer Paralympics VII, Stoke Mandeville & New York, United States of America & United Kingdom
1988 Summer Paralympics VIII, Seoul, South Korea
1992 Summer Paralympics IX, Barcelona, Spain
1996 Summer Paralympics X, Atlanta Georgia, United States
2000 Summer Paralympics XI, Sydney, Australia
2004 Summer Paralympics XII, Athens, Greece
2008 Summer Paralympics XIII, Beijing, China
2012 Summer Paralympics XIV, London, United Kingdom

Winter Paralympic Games

1976 Winter Paralympics, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden
1980 Winter Paralympics, Geilo, Norway
1984 Winter Paralympics, Innsbruck, Austria
1988 Winter Paralympics, Innsbruck, Austria
1992 Winter Paralympics, Tignes-Albertville, France
1994 Winter Paralympics, Lillehammer, Norway
1998 Winter Paralympics, Nagano, Japan
2002 Winter Paralympics, Salt Lake City, United States of America
2006 Winter Paralympics, Turin, Italy
2010 Winter Paralympics, Vancouver, Canada


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