2004 Summer Paralympics
|Host city||Athens, Greece|
|Motto||Great Athletes. Great Performances. (Greek: Μεγάλους αθλητές. Μεγάλες Παραστάσεις.)|
|Events||519 in 19 sports|
|Opening ceremony||September 17|
|Closing ceremony||September 28|
|Officially opened by||President Costis Stephanopoulos|
|Paralympic torch||Georgios Toptsis|
|Paralympic stadium||Athens Olympic Stadium|
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The 2004 Summer Paralympics (Greek: Θερινοί Παραολυμπιακοί Αγώνες 2004) were held in Athens, Greece, from September 17 to September 28. The twelfth Paralympic Games, an estimated 4,000 athletes took part in the Athens programme, with ages ranging from 11 to 66. Paralympic events had already taken place during the 2004 Summer Olympics as demonstration sports – women's 800 m and men's 1500 m wheelchair races. These races were open to able-bodied people and were without disability classification – as such, they did not form part of the official Paralympic programme. See Wheelchair racing at the 2004 Summer Olympics for more details.
Athletes with learning difficulties were excluded from the games due to the difficulties in testing for and classifying these disabilities. The exclusion was introduced after the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, the first games with events exclusively for people with learning difficulties (and the second with such athletes), after it was found that the majority of the Spanish basketball team were not disabled. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stated that the exclusion would continue until there are sufficient tests for the disabilities and a way to measure the effect they have on a sport. Exhibition matches for these categories were featured in the Games in basketball and table tennis, and the Special Olympics remains the major sporting event specifically designed for athletes with learning difficulties.
A total of 1567 medals were awarded during the Athens games: 519 gold, 516 silver, and 532 bronze. China topped the medal count with more gold medals, more silver medals, and more medals overall than any other nation. In the table below, the ranking sorts by the number of gold medals earned by a nation (in this context a nation is an entity represented by a National Paralympic Committee).
Among the top individual medal winners was Mayumi Narita of Japan, who took seven golds and one bronze medal in swimming, setting six world records in the process and bringing her overall Paralympic gold medal total to fifteen. Chantal Petitclerc of Canada won five golds and set three world records in wheelchair racing, while Swedish shooter Jonas Jacobsson took four gold medals. France's Béatrice Hess won her nineteenth and twentieth Paralympic gold medals in swimming. Swimmer Trischa Zorn of the United States won just one medal, a bronze, but it was her 55th ever Paralympic medal. She retained her position as the most successful Paralympian of all times.
The opening ceremony for the 2004 Summer Paralympics took place on September 17, 2004. The show started with children passing on knowledge and raising their lights to the sky. This was a reference to Hippocrates, who transferred knowledge to the children. A 26 meters tall olive tree (with more than 195,000 leaves) symbolising life stood in the middle of the arena. The opening ceremony also featured a performance with human drama, with light and with music, in an allegory about obstacles and limits. The Parade of Delegations was accompanied by the music of French composers Yves Stepping and Jean Christophe. The music told the legend of Hephaestos, god of fire and son of Zeus and Hera. An athlete from Turkmenistan propelled himself around the stadium by doing somersaults. Greece, the home team, received a strong cheer. After that, fireworks erupted at the stadium. There were 150 local support staff involved and 400 volunteers. The children were from ages 8 to 17, coming from Australia, France, Spain, Greece and Germany. The Games were officially declared opened by Greek president Costis Stephanopoulos and Phil Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee. They were accompanied by the head of the organizing committee Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who told the athletes and the audience: "The Olympic flame illuminates athletes. Many of you will leave Athens with medals, but all of you will leave as champions." Phil Craven quoted Democritus in his speech: "Two thousand years ago, Democritus said 'To win oneself is the first and best of all victories.' This holds true for all athletes, but especially for Paralympians. Recognising and cultivating your unique abilities and mastering challenges – you set standards and give expression for many people, young and old, around the world." The Paralympic flame was lit by Greek athlete Georgios Toptsis.
The closing ceremony for the 2004 Summer Paralympics took place on September 28, 2004. The traditional cultural display was removed from the ceremony as a mark of respect for the deaths of seven teenagers from Farkadona, travelling to Athens, whose bus collided with a truck near the town of Kamena Vourla.
- "The Athens Olympics Organising Committee [ATHOC] has decided to cancel the closing ceremony of the 12th Athens Paralympics as initially planned and scheduled because of the tragic accident that cost the life of pupils. The artistic and entertainment part of the ceremony will not take place." (official statement)
Flags were flown at half mast and a minute's silence was observed. In contrast with the formal nature of the opening ceremony, the athletes entered the stadium for the final time as a collective. The flag of the IPC was then officially handed over to the 2008 hosts, Beijing. An artistic presentation to acknowledge Beijing as the next host was still shown, which also unveiled the IPC's new logo. A procession of young people then made their way to join the athletes in the centre of the stadium carrying paper lanterns, before the Paralympic flame was extinguished, the final moment of the Paralympic Games.
Media coverage controversy
Although the Paralympic Games were broadcast to around 1.6 billion viewers throughout 49 countries, some controversy was caused when no American television network stayed to broadcast the event. This resulted in some US viewers having to wait almost 2 months until the coverage was broadcast, compared with live feeds in the UK and other countries.
Sports featured in the 2004 Summer Paralympics
The 2004 Summer Paralympics included 19 sports. New events featured in the Games were five-a-side blind football, women's sitting volleyball, and quads wheelchair tennis.
Results for individual events can be found on the relevant page.
- see Boccia for general details of the sport
- Football (5-a-side)
- Football (7-a-side)
- see Paralympic Football for general details of the sport
- see Goalball for general details of the sport
- see Paralympic judo for general details of the sport
- see Paralympic powerlifting for general details of the sport
- see the IPC Sailing microsite for general details of the sport
- see Paralympic shooting for general details of the sport
- see Paralympic swimming for general details of the sport
- Table Tennis
- see Paralympic table tennis for general details of the sport
- Volleyball (Sitting)
- see Sitting volleyball for general details of the sport
- Wheelchair Basketball
- see Wheelchair basketball for general details of the sport
- Wheelchair Fencing
- see Wheelchair fencing for general details of the sport
- Wheelchair Rugby
- see Wheelchair rugby for general details of the sport
- Wheelchair Tennis
- see Wheelchair tennis for general details of the sport
Athletes from 135 nations competed in the Athens Paralympics.
- "Athens 2004 – General Information". International Paralympic Committee. 2008. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
- "Times Square Honors Athletes", International Paralympic Committee, January 5, 2005
- Jones, Sam (28 September 2004). "Seven children die in Paralympics bus crash". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- "Games finale cut after bus deaths". BBC News. 27 September 2004. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- "Games finale cut after bus deaths", BBC News Online, 2004-09-27
- "International Paralympic Committee Annual report 2004", IPC
- "Athens advance Paralympics", BBC News Online, 2004-09-24
- "US TV Coverage of the Paralympics – starts November ...", paralympics.com, 2004-09-20
- "Athens 2004 – Participating Delegations". International Paralympic Committee. 2008. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 2004 Summer Paralympics.|
- 25 things you never knew about the Paralympics (BBC website). Also links to information about 20 athletes from Team GB.