The history of the Paralympics dates back to 1948 when the game was introduced by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann as a means of rehabilitation for World War II veterans. With a vision to offer physically challenged athletes an international podium for showcasing their strength, Guttmann deliberately planned the first chapter of the games to be held in parallel with the 1948 London Summer Olympics. Fast forward to 2018, the Paralympics is nothing less than grandeur, with the 2016 Rio Paralympics witnessing participation from an estimated 4,350 athletes from 160 countries, contending in 528 events across 23 sports.
We list down for you the 10 most interesting facts about the Paralympic Games.
- Para in Paralympics doesn’t stand for “paralysis” or “paraplegia”.
As opposed to what several viewers believe, the Para in Paralympics doesn’t represent paralysis or paraplegia. The word “para” roots from the Greek “beside or alongside”, suggesting the Paralympic Games are held parallelly with the Olympics.
- Athletes with physical disabilities have competed before in the Olympics.
Before the commencement of the Paralympics, athletes with physical disabilities competed with regular sportspersons in the Olympic Games. Not just that, physically disabled athletes have also won several medals at the Olympics. Ray Ewry, an American track and field athlete with polio, went on to win eight gold medals at the Olympics games of 1900, 1904 and 1908.
- No Olympic rings
Unlike the Olympic Games, the iconic 5 interlocking rings are not present in the symbol of the Paralympics. Instead the event has Agito, which is Latin for “I move”. Swatches of three colours (red, green and blue) circling a central point, which is a representation of para athletes coming together from all across the world.
- The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are not the same
The IPC and the IOC are two separate bodies. The Olympics and the Paralympics have not always been held in the same countries. Starting 1968, the two sports events were held in different countries; it was only in 1988 that Seoul hosted both the games. Thereafter, the Olympics and Paralympics have come together. It is now official that host countries have to bid for both the events.
- The first official use of the term Paralympic was in 1988
The present formal explanation of the word “Paralympic” as an event that runs in parallel to the Olympics, was first officially used in the Seoul Summer Games of 1988.
- Participation from athletes across 10 disability types
The event, which originally was only for wheelchair bound competitors, today has evolved to comprise 10 disability types, including impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement and limb deficiency.
- Intellectual disabilities are considered at the Paralympics
Initially accepting athletes with only physical and visual disabilities, the 2012 London Paralympics etched history, with intellectually impaired participants, for the first time in 12 years, contending in the athletics, swimming and table tennis categories.
- Special medals for winners
The medals distributed at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games had integrated sensory elements to make the winners look and sound like champions. All medals made a unique rattling sound and had “Rio 2016 Paralympic Games” written in Braille.
- Sports unique to the Paralympics
Boccia and goalball are two sports that are unique to the Paralympics. Both of these are ball games played indoors. Goalball is played by visually impaired athletes, while Boccia is played by athletes with various disabilities impacting their motor skills.
- North Korea marks its Winter Paralympics debut in 2018
The 2018 Winter Paralympics at PyeongChang, South Korea will witness North Korea’s Winter Paralympics debut. This will be a first for the country at the Winter Games, with only 1 delegate present at the Summer Paralympics at London.