What are the Paralympics?
Just like the Olympics, the Paralympics is an international sports event but it’s only for athletes who have some sort of physical disability. Although they have been called lots of different names in the past, they are now called the Paralympics because they run ‘parallel’ with the Olympic games.
The man who first thought of a competition for disabled people was a doctor in the UK called Ludwig Guttmann. He worked with patients who had permanent back injuries and also used wheelchairs. Dr Guttmann realised that playing sport could help people build strength in their bodies as well as giving them self-respect. So, in 1948 he organised the International Wheelchair Games to take place at the same time as the Olympics that year.
The first real Paralympics
Twelve years later in Rome in 1960, 400 athletes from 23 different countries took part in various different events including archery, snooker and basketball. All the sports people had to be wheelchair users. From then on, the Paralympics happened ever four years.
In 1976 the Paralympics took place in Canada. Now, amputees and visually impaired athletes could also take part in the games alongside wheelchair users. The Games were getting much bigger and there were 32 nations represented by more than fifteen hundred athletes. This was also the first year that the winter Paralympics began.
The modern Games
In 1992, the dates of the Paralympics were changed so they happened in the same years as the Summer and the Winter Olympics. Now, they are one of the largest sporting events held in the world. Dr Guttmann died in 1980 but his belief that sport could help people with disabilities lives on.