History of the Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games began after the Second World War as a sporting event intended to get English soldiers in wheelchairs moving again. Over time, however, the Games have evolved into an elite international competition involving a broader range of athletes from around the world.

World War II left many soldiers with serious injuries. Just after the war, in 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttman organized a competition in Stoke Mandeville, England, to get British war veterans with a spinal cord injury moving again. Four years later, athletes from the Netherlands joined the games.

The first Olympic-style games for athletes with a disability – now called the Paralympic Games – were held after the 1960 Olympic Summer Games in Rome, Italy. The first Paralympic Winter Games took place in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, in 1976. The Paralympic Games have taken place at the same venues as the Olympic Games since the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Summer Games in South Korea and the Albertville 1992 Paralympic Winter Games in France.

In most Paralympic sports, competitors with similar disabilities compete against one another according to that sport’s rules.

During the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, approximately 600 athletes will compete in five sports and 64 separate medal events.


Learn more about the Paralympic Movement at the International Paralympic Committee website.

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