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Paralympic Games
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Games
Ancient Olympic Games
Olympic Games
Paralympic Games
Summer Paralympic Games
Winter Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games or Paralympics are a periodic series of international multi-sport events involving athletes with a range of disabilities, including impaired muscle power (e.g. paraplegia and quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, spina bifida), impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency (e.g. amputation or dysmelia), leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, are held almost immediately following the respective Olympic Games. All Paralympic Games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

The Paralympics has grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sporting events by the early 21st century. The Paralympics has grown from 400 athletes with a disability from 23 countries in 1960 to thousands of competitors from over 100 countries at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Paralympians strive for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympic athletes, but there is a large funding gap between Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

The Paralympic Games are organized in parallel with the Olympic Games, while the IOC-recognized Special Olympics World Games include athletes with intellectual disabilities, and the Deaflympics include deaf athletes.

Given the wide variety of disabilities that Para athletes have, there are several categories in which the athletes compete. The allowable disabilities are broken down into ten eligible impairment types. The categories are impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. These categories are further broken down into classifications, which vary from sport to sport.

History

RUSMARKA-1777
Sir Ludwig Guttmann

Athletes with disabilities did compete at the Olympic Games prior to the advent of the Paralympics. The first athlete to do so was German American gymnast George Eyser in 1904, who had one artificial leg. Hungarian Karoly Takacs competed in shooting events in both the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics. He was a right-arm amputee and could shoot left-handed. Another disabled athlete to appear in the Olympics prior to the Paralympic Games was Lis Hartel, a Danish equestrian athlete who had contracted polio in 1943 and won a silver medal in the dressage event.

The first organized athletic event for disabled athletes that coincided with the Olympic Games took place on the day of the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom. Jewish-German born Dr. Ludwig Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, who had been helped to flee Nazi Germany by the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) in 1939, hosted a sports competition for British World War II veteran patients with spinal cord injuries. The first games were called the 1948 International Wheelchair Games, and were intended to coincide with the 1948 Olympics. Guttman's aim was to create an elite sports competition for people with disabilities that would be equivalent to the Olympic Games. The games were held again at the same location in 1952, and Dutch and Israeli veterans took part alongside the British, making it the first international competition of its own kind. These early competitions, also known as the Stoke Mandeville Games, have been described as the precursors of the Paralympic Games, and Stoke Mandeville holds a similar place in the lore of the Paralympic movement as Greece holds in the Olympic.

Name and symbols

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 very accurate. The present formal explanation for the name is that it derives from the Greek preposition παρά, pará ("beside" or "alongside") and thus refers to a competition held in parallel with the Olympic Games. The Summer Games of 1988 held in Seoul was the first time the term "Paralympic" came into official use.

“Spirit in Motion” is the motto for the Paralympic movement. The symbol for the Paralympics contains three colours, red, blue, and green, which are the colours most widely represented in the flags of nations. The colours are each in the shape of an Agito (which is Latin for "I move / I shake / I stir"), which is the name given to an asymmetrical crescent specially designed for the Paralympic movement. The three Agitos circle a central point, which is a symbol for the athletes congregating from all points of the globe. The motto and symbol of the IPC were changed in 2003 to their current versions. The change was intended to convey the idea that Paralympians have a spirit of competition and that the IPC as an organization realizes its potential and is moving forward to achieve it. The vision of the IPC is, "To enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to inspire and excite the world." The Paralympic anthem is "Hymne de l'Avenir" or "Anthem of the Future". It was composed by Thierry Darnis and adopted as the official anthem in March 1996.

Winter Games

2018 Alpine event finish stadium
2018 Para Alpine Super G finish line Stadium, South Korea 2018

The first Winter Paralympic Games were held in 1976 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. This was the first Paralympics in which multiple categories of athletes with disabilities could compete. The Winter Games were celebrated every four years on the same year as their summer counterpart, just as the Olympics were. This tradition was upheld through the 1992 Games in Albertville, France; after that, beginning with the 1994 Games, the Winter Paralympics and the Winter Olympics have been held in those even-numbered years separate from the Summer Olympics.

Classification

Paralympic XC ski sitting
Olena Iurkovska of Ukraine competing on cross-country sit-skis at the 2010 Winter Paralympics
Oscar Pistorius-2
Oscar Pistorius at a track meet on 8 July 2007

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has established ten disability categories. Athletes are divided within each category according to their level of impairment, in a functional classification system which differs from sport to sport.

Categories

The IPC has established ten disability categories, including physical, visual, and intellectual impairment. Athletes with one of these disabilities can compete in the Paralympics though not every sport can allow for every disability category. These categories apply to both Summer and Winter Paralympics.

Physical Impairment – There are eight different types of physical impairment:

  • Impaired muscle power – With impairments in this category, the force generated by muscles, such as the muscles of one limb, one side of the body or the lower half of the body is reduced, (e.g. spinal cord injury, spina bifida, post-polio syndrome).
  • Impaired passive range of movement – Range of movement in one or more joints is reduced in a systematic way. Acute conditions such as arthritis are not included.
  • Loss of limb or limb deficiency – A total or partial absence of bones or joints from partial or total loss due to illness, trauma, or congenital limb deficiency (e.g. dysmelia).
  • Leg-length difference – Significant bone shortening occurs in one leg due to congenital deficiency or trauma.
  • Short stature – Standing height is reduced due to shortened legs, arms and trunk, which are due to a musculoskeletal deficit of bone or cartilage structures. (e.g. achondroplasia, growth hormone deficiency, osteogenesis imperfecta)
  • Hypertonia – Hypertonia is marked by an abnormal increase in muscle tension and reduced ability of a muscle to stretch. Hypertonia may result from injury, disease, or conditions which involve damage to the central nervous system (e.g. cerebral palsy).
  • Ataxia – Ataxia is an impairment that consists of a lack of coordination of muscle movements (e.g., cerebral palsy, Friedreich’s ataxia, multiple sclerosis).
  • Athetosis – Athetosis is generally characterized by unbalanced, involuntary movements and a difficulty maintaining a symmetrical posture (e.g. cerebral palsy, choreoathetosis).

Visual Impairment – Athletes with visual impairment ranging from partial vision, sufficient to be judged legally blind, to total blindness. This includes impairment of one or more component of the visual system (eye structure, receptors, optic nerve pathway, and visual cortex). The sighted guides for athletes with a visual impairment are such a close and essential part of the competition that the athlete with visual impairment and the guide are considered a team. Beginning in 2012, these guides (along with sighted goalkeepers in 5-a-side football became eligible to receive medals of their own.

Intellectual Disability – Athletes with a significant intellectual impairment and associated limitations in adaptive behaviour. The IPC primarily serves athletes with physical disabilities, but the disability group Intellectual Disability has been added to some Paralympic Games. This includes only elite athletes with intellectual disabilities diagnosed before the age of 18. However, the IOC-recognized Special Olympics World Games are open to all people with intellectual disabilities.

Paralympians work for equal treatment with able-bodied Olympians. Olympians receive much more money than Paralympians. Some Paralympians have also participated in the Olympic Games.

See also

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