What Are Paralympics?

The Paralympics started in a small scale in 1948 and now it is one of the most anticipated events of all times. It is a periodic series of international events comprising of multiple 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.

It comprises of summer Paralympics and Winter Paralympics. It is held immediately after the Olympics. 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 Paralympics. Paralympians strive for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympic athletes, but there is a large funding gap between Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Since the athletes participating in the games can have varied disabilities therefore to make the games equal for all, the permissible disabilities has been divided into 10 parts.  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.

The first Winter Paralympic Games were held in 1976 in 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. The International Paralympic Committee is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. It comprises 176 National Paralympic Committees (NPC) and four disability-specific international sports federations. The IPC’s international headquarters are in Bonn, Germany.

The Paralympic Games emphasize the participants’ athletic achievements and not their disability. Recent games have emphasized that these games are about ability and not disability. 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 4,342 athletes from 159 countries in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Both the Paralympic Summer and Winter Games are recognized on the world stage.

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