10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the Paralympics

1. The Paralympics origins began in 1948 thanks to a Jewish neurosurgeon named Ludwig Guttman that fled Nazi Germany for Great Britain. At the time, a spinal cord injury was considered a death sentence, but Guttman was an unconventional man who refused to believe that the men and women he saw in hospitals didn’t have a future. He took them off sedation, put them in chairs, and got them playing organized sports as a form of rehabilitation.

2. The first Paralympic game was held in 1960, in Rome, Italy. 400 athletes with spinal cord injuries from 23 countries competed in 8 sports.

Opening ceremony for the 1960 Paralympic Games. Source: International Paralympics Committee

3. The word Paralympic means running ‘parallel’ or alongside the Olympics. It has nothing to do with paralysis or paraplegia.

4. While the games were originally created for individuals living with SCIs, they now include other types of mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, cerebral palsy, and what is referred to as les autres, or literally, the others. Les autres are athletes with disabilities that don’t fall into other major categories and include dwarfism, congenital disorders and multiple sclerosis.

Jessica Long, U.S. Paralympic competitor.
(September 14, 2008 – Source: China Photos/Getty Images AsiaPac)

5. The motto for the Paralympics used to be ‘Mind, Body, Spirit.’ Now it is ‘Spirit in Motion.’

6. The symbol for the Paralympic Games is the Agito, which is Latin for “I move.” The three colors found within the symbol (green, red, and blue) are the colors most widely represented in the world’s flags.

Symbol for the 2012 Paralympic Games

7. In 2001, the International Paralympic Committee signed a deal with the International Olympic Committee stating that Olympic host cities would be contracted to host the Paralympic Games as well. This means better facilities and exposure for the athletes competing in the Paralympics.

8. Not everyone who competes in the Paralympics has a disability. The sighted guides for athletes with visual impairments are considered to be such an essential part to their team that they are also medal candidates.

9. Funding is one of the biggest challenges that Paralympic athletes and organizations face. They receive about a fifth of the amount of support that the Olympics receive.

10. Another other big challenge that the Paralympics face is media coverage. Fortunately, coverage has been increasing over time, with the 2012 London Games shaping up to be the most widely broadcasted of any games thus far.

The Paralympic Games start tomorrow, August 29th and run through September 9th. For more information and coverage, visit http://www.london2012.com/paralympics/sports/.

 Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paralympic_Games

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/ludwig-guttmann-paralympics-founder-doctor_n_1835846.html

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