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The Paralympic Games are a multi-sport event for athletes with physical, mental, and sensorial disabilities. This includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputees, visually impaired athletes, 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 World Games, which are only for people with intellectual disabilities.
Although the name was originally coined as a portmanteau combining 'paraplegic' (due to its origins as games for people with spinal injuries) and 'Olympic', the inclusion of other disability groups meant that this was no longer considered appropriate. The present formal explanation for the name is therefore that it derives from the Greek "para-" ("beside" or "alongside") and thus refers to a competition held in parallel with the Olympic Games.
The Paralympic Games are elite sport events for athletes from different disability groups. They are designed to emphasize the participants' athletic achievements, not their disability. Since athletes with other types of disabilities now participate in the games, the IPC currently states that the name is a combination of 'parallel' and 'Olympics' due to the event's "close associations with the Olympic Movement."
On the day of the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville Hospital organised a sports competition for British World War Two veteran patients with spinal cord injuries. The games were held again at the same location in 1952, and Dutch veterans took part alongside the British, making it the first international competition of its kind. These Stoke Mandeville Games have been described as the precursors of the Paralympic Games. The Paralympics were subsequently officialised as a quadrennial event tied to the Olympic Games, and the first official Paralympic Games, no longer open solely to war veterans, were held in Rome in 1960.  At the Toronto 1976 Games other groups of athletes with different disabilities were also included.
The movement has grown dramatically since its early days – for example the number of athletes participating in the Summer Paralympic Games has increased from 400 athletes in Rome in 1960 to 3,806 athletes from 136 countries in Athens in 2004.
The Paralympic Games take place in the same year as the Olympic Games. However, it is only since 1988 that the Games have been held in the same city, using the same venues. In 2001 the IOC and IPC signed an agreement which guaranteed that Host Cities would be contracted to manage both Olympic Games and Paralympic Games with effect from 2012. Today, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement; it organises the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games; and also serves as the International Federation for 12 sports, for which it supervises and coordinates the World Championships and other competitions.
The Paralympic Games have seen damaging scandals regarding cheating in the events. After the 2000 Sydney Games, in which non-disabled athletes were entered in the Spanish Basketball ID team, athletes with intellectual difficulties were suspended indefinitely by the IPC. The IPC has stated that it will re-evaluate their participation following the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.[dead link]
|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||West Germany|
|1976 Summer Paralympics||V||Toronto||Canada|
|1980 Summer Paralympics||VI||Arnhem||Netherlands|
|1984 Summer Paralympics||VII||Stoke Mandeville
| United Kingdom|
|1988 Summer Paralympics||VIII||Seoul||South Korea|
|1992 Summer Paralympics||IX||Barcelona||Spain|
|1996 Summer Paralympics||X||Atlanta||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|
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
- Volleyball (sitting)
- Wheelchair basketball
- Wheelchair fencing
- Wheelchair rugby
- Wheelchair tennis
These sports will be part of the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.
The following sports are not included in the Summer Paralympic Games program, but are governed by the IPC:
|Winter Paralympic Games|
|1976 Winter Paralympics||I||Örnsköldsvik||Sweden|
|1980 Winter Paralympics||II||Geilo||Norway|
|1984 Winter Paralympics||III||Innsbruck||Austria|
|1988 Winter Paralympics||IV||Innsbruck||Austria|
|1992 Winter Paralympics||V||Albertville||France|
|1994 Winter Paralympics||VI||Lillehammer||Norway|
|1998 Winter Paralympics||VII||Nagano||Japan|
|2002 Winter Paralympics||VIII||Salt Lake City||United States|
|2006 Winter Paralympics||IX||Turin||Italy|
|2010 Winter Paralympics||X||Vancouver||Canada|
|2014 Winter Paralympics||XI||Sochi||Russia|
The following sports are on the current Winter Paralympic Games program:
Ragnhild Myklebust of Norway holds the record for the most ever medals won at the Winter Paralympic Games. Competing in a variety of events in 1988, 1992, 1994 and 2002, she won a total of 22 medals, of which 17 were gold.
- Amputee: Athletes with a partial or total loss of at least one limb.
- Cerebral Palsy: Athletes with non-progressive brain damage, for example cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.
- Intellectual Disability: Athletes with a significant impairment in intellectual functioning and associated limitations in adaptive behavior. (This category is currently suspended.)
- Wheelchair: Athletes with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities which require them to compete in a wheelchair.
- Visually Impaired: Athletes with vision impairment ranging from partial vision, sufficient to be judged legally blind, to total blindness.
- Les Autres: Athletes with a physical disability that does not fall strictly under one of the other five categories, such as dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or congenital deformities of the limbs such as that caused by thalidomide. (The name for this category comes from the French for the others).
These categories apply to both summer and winter Paralympics.
The IPC has set up national Paralympic Games for competitions organized under the national Paralympic Committees.
- "About the IPC". IPC.
- "Paralympics traces roots to Second World War", CBC, September 3, 2008
- "2012 – The Paralympics come home", BBC, July 4, 2008
- "IPC Calls For Full Investigation". IPC. 27 November 2000. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- "IPC Suspends INAS-FID from Membership". IPC. 9 March 2001. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- "Press Releases". IPC. 26 June 2006.
- "Possibilité de médaille d’or : Vancouver 2010 annonce la recherche d’un concepteur pour les médailles olympiques et paralympiques", official website of the 2010 Vancouver Games, December 13, 2007
- P. David Howe, The Cultural Politics of the Paralympic Movement. Through an Anthropological Lens, Routledge, 2008, ISBN 978-0-415-28887-3
- Paralympic Link Directory
- Official Canadian Website
- Official IPC Website
- IMNO Interviews Curt Brinkman Five-time Paralympic Gold Medallist
- CBC Digital Archives - Playing to Win: Canada at the Paralympics
- / Match schedules of the Paralympics 2008 for electronic calendars like Outlook, iCal and Google Calendar
- "Why the Paralympics matter", BBC, September 5, 2008