One giant leap to eliminate discrimination — Get to know Paralympic Games!
The Paralympic Games are an independent entity and a stage.
There is a misunderstanding here. Many people think that the Paralympics is an offshoot of the Olympics, but this is not true. In fact, these are two parallel, independent events. The word “Paralympic” derives from the Greek preposition “para” (beside or alongside) and the word “Olympic”.
Its meaning is that Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics and illustrates how the two movements exist side-by-side.
The Paralympic Movement has adopted and follows athlete-focused values, which act as the underlying reference for all those involved in Para sport.
“COURAGE: Para athletes through their performances showcase to the world what can be achieved when testing your body to its absolute limits.”
“DETERMINATION: Para athletes have a unique strength of character that combines mental toughness, physical ability and outstanding agility to produce sporting performances that regularly redefine the boundaries of possibility.”
“INSPIRATION: As role models, Para-athletes maximize their abilities, empowering and exciting others to be active and participate in sport.”
The Olympic and Paralympic Games have different histories and exist for different purposes. One of the most important Paralympic values is equality.
“EQUALITY: Through sport, Para athletes celebrate diversity and show that difference is a strength. As pioneers for inclusion, they challenge stereotypes, transform attitudes and break down social barriers and discrimination towards persons with disabilities.”
It is not difficult to understand the significance of the Paralympic Games, its historical background is the best answer, let’s look at it together.
How did the Paralympics begin?
Impaired athletes sport has existed for more than 100 years, and the first sports clubs for the deaf were already in existence in 1888 in Berlin. However, it was not until after World War II that it became widely introduced. The purpose of it at that time was to assist the large number of war veterans and civilians who were injured during wartime.
In 1944, at the request of the British Government, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann opened a spinal injuries center at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain. Meanwhile, rehabilitation sports evolved into recreational and competitive sports.
On 29 July 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes named the Stoke Mandeville Games, a milestone in Paralympic history. They involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery.
In 1952, Dutch veterans joined the Movement and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were founded.
First Paralympic Games
The Stoke Mandeville Games later became the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960, featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries. Since then, they have taken place every four years.
In 1976 the first Winter Games in Paralympics history were held in Sweden. The Summer Games have taken place every four years and include a Paralympics Opening Ceremony and Paralympics Closing Ceremony.
Since the Summer Games of Seoul, Korea in 1988 and the Winter Games in Albertville, France in 1992, the Summer and Winter Games decided to take part in the same cities and venues as the Olympics due to an agreement between the IPC and IOC.
Growth of the Paralympic Family
In 1960, under the aegis of the World Federation of veterans, an International Working Group was set up to study sports problems for disabled persons. It resulted in the creation, in 1964, of the International Sport Organization for the Disabled (ISOD) who offered opportunities for those athletes who could not affiliate to the International Stoke Mandeville Games: vision impaired, amputees, persons with cerebral palsy and paraplegics.
At the start, 16 countries were affiliated to ISOD and the organization pushed very hard to include blind and amputee athletes into the Toronto 1976 Paralympics and athletes with cerebral palsy in 1980 in Arnhem. It aimed to embrace all impairments in the future and act as a Co-coordinating Committee. Nevertheless, other disability-orientated international organizations such as the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA) and International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) were founded in 1978 and 1980.
The four international organizations experienced the need to coordinate the Games, so they created the “International Co-coordinating Committee Sports for the Disabled in the World” (ICC) in 1982.
The International Committee of Sport for the Deaf (CISS) and International Sports Federations for Persons with an Intellectual Disability (INAS-FID) joined in 1986. However, the deaf still maintained their organization. However, the member nations demanded more national and regional representation.
International Paralympic Committee was born
Finally, on 22 September 1989, the International Paralympic Committee was founded as an international non-profit organization in Dusseldorf, Germany, to act as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement.
15% of the total population of the earth is one billion.
The world’s disabled population accounts for 15%, a billion people, which is a very staggering number. Unlike the Olympic Games, which pursue the ultimate in strength and speed. The Paralympic Games are more like a stage, an opportunity for physically injured persons to exercise at the physical and psychological levels and improve their self-confidence.
Go faster, higher, stronger within the limits of what they can do. But at the same time, they also profoundly felt that there is a long way to go to eliminate discrimination.
One of the things the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will say again and again is eliminating discrimination.
But discrimination is a high wall, and it is difficult to break down in a short time.
Suppose there was no Dr. Guttmann who encouraged patients to exercise in 1944. In that case, the disabled may have to accept the reality of staying in hospital beds forever, and there would be no Paralympics and so many inspirational stories today.
There is an old saying in China, you can’t go a thousand miles without taking a small step.