Starting August 29th, some of the world's best athletes will be competing in the the 2nd largest sporting event in the world, the Paralympic Summer Games. This year is expected to be the biggest Paralympic Games ever. Although these games are rising quickly in popularity, there are still a lot of interesting facts about the history of the Paralympics that you may not know.
- WHY "PARALYMPICS"? The name comes from the Greek word "para" which means "beside" or "along side". This meaning is fitting since the Paralympics are now held in conjunction with the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
- HISTORY OF THE GAMES: An English Neurosurgeon named Sir Ludwig Guttmann was looking for new ways to treat those confined to wheelchairs. The use of sports was introduced as a new therapy to help improve the lives of his patients. He then organized the International Wheelchair and Amputee Games to coincide with the Summer Olympics that were held in London in 1948. This was the beginning of the Paralympics we know today.
- FIRST OFFICIAL PARALYMPIC GAMES: The first official Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960. There were 400 athletes from 23 different countries. However, at that time, the games were only open to athletes in wheelchairs.
- PARALYMPIC SYMBOLS: The official motto for the Paralympics is "Spirit in Motion". The flag represents all athletes coming together in one point on the globe.
- CATEGORIES: Paralympic athletes are divided into 6 categories: Wheelchair, Amputee, Cerebral Palsey, Intellectual Disability, Visually Impaired, and Les Autres, which is for athletes that don't fall into the other 5 categories.
- SPORTS: There are currently 20 different sports in the Summer Paralympic Games, 16 of which are also Olympics Sports. They are: Wheelchair basketball, Wheelchair Fencing, Wheelchair rugby, Wheelchair tennis, Football 5-a-side, Football 7-a-side, Archery, Athletics, Boccia, Cycling, Equestrian, Goalball, Judo, Powerlifting, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Swimming, Table tennis, and Volleyball.
- CONTROVERSY: After winning a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, it was discovered that only two of the Spanish Intellectually Disabled Basketball Squad were actually disabled. Recently 3 Jordanian paralympians withdrew from the 2012 after being charged with sex crimes.
- MEDALS: The medals that are awarded in the games have English and Braille inscriptions on them.
- WHO'S COMPETING IN 2012? The 2012 Paralympics will feature over 4,200 athletes from 165 different countries.
- PARALYMPIANS YOU MIGHT RECOGNIZE: Oscar Pistorius made headlines in the 2012 Olympic Summer Games by being the first double amputee to compete in the games. Less than a month after making history will be back on the track at the Paralympic Games. Another familiar face is comedian and winner of "Last Comic Standing", Josh Blue. He's been active in the paralympics since 2004.
Click here to watch Paralympic promo video