Paralympic Games: Information, News & Events


The Paralympic Games are multi-sport disability events for athletes with physical mental and sensorial disabilities.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games is a major international multi-sport event, involving athletes with a range of physical disabilities, including impaired muscle power (e.g. paraplegia and quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, Post-polio syndrome, spina bifida), impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency (e.g. amputation or dysmelia), leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which since the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, are held almost immediately following the respective Olympic Games. All Paralympic Games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Main Document

The Paralympic Games are a multi-sport event for athletes with physical, mental and sensorial disabilities. This includes mobility disabilities, amputees, visual disabilities and those with cerebral palsy. The Paralympic Games are held every four years, following the Olympic Games, and are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) - (The Paralympic Games are sometimes confused with the Special Olympics, which are only for people with intellectual disabilities.)

When did the Paralympic Games First start

The Paralympics first started in 1948 when Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition which involved world war 2 veterans that had spinal injuries.

Afterwards a similar event was organized in Toronto, Canada where different disability groups were added and the idea of merging together and taking part in athletic sports was a success.

The name derives from the Greek "para" ("beside" or "alongside") and thus refers to a competition held in parallel with the Olympic Games. No relation with paralysis or paraplegia is intended, however, the word Paralympic was originally a portmanteau combining 'paraplegic' and 'Olympic'.

The number of athletes participating in Summer Paralympic Games have increased from 400 athletes from 23 countries in Rome in 1960 to 3806 athletes from 136 countries in Athens in 2004.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for nine sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World Championships and other competitions.

The Summer and Winter Paralympic Games are the ultimate international competitions for world class athletes with a disability. They are linked to the Olympic celebrations every two years and athletes must meet strict qualifying standards in order to compete.

Disability Category Definitions for Paralympic Games:
(These categories apply to both summer and winter Paralympics.)


Athletes with a partial or total loss of at least one limb.

Cerebral Palsy:

Athletes with non-progressive brain damage, for example cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.

Intellectual Disability:

Athletes with a significant impairment in intellectual functioning and associated limitations in adaptive behavior (currently suspended.)


Athletes with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities which require them to compete in a wheelchair.

Visually Impaired:

Athletes with vision impairment ranging from partial vision, sufficient to be judged legally blind, to total blindness.

Athletes with a physical disability that does not fall strictly under one of the other five categories, such as dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or congenital deformities of the limbs such as that caused by thalidomide.

Quick Facts: Paralympic Venues

Winter Paralympic Games:
1976 - Paralympics I - Ornskaldsvik - Sweden
1980 - Paralympics II - Geilo - Norway
1984 - Paralympics III - Innsbruck - Austria
1988 - Paralympics IV - Innsbruck - Austria
1992 - Paralympics V - Albertville - France
1994 - Paralympics VI - Lillehammer - Norway
1998 - Paralympics VII - Nagano - Japan
2002 - Paralympics VIII - Salt Lake City - United States
2006 - Paralympics IX - Turin - Italy
2010 - Paralympics X - Vancouver - Canada
2014 - Paralympics XI - Sochi - Russia
2018 Winter Paralympics XII - Pyeongchang - South Korea
2022 - Paralympic XIII - Beijing - China
Summer Paralympic Games:
1960 - Paralympics I - Rome - Italy
1964 - Paralympics II - Tokyo - Japan
1968 - Paralympics III - Tel Aviv - Israel
1972 - Paralympics IV - Heidelberg - West Germany
1976 - Paralympics V - Toronto - Canada
1980 - Paralympics VI - Arnhem - Netherlands
1984 - Paralympics VII - Stoke Mandeville - UK, New York - US
1988 - Paralympics VIII - Seoul - South Korea
1992 - Paralympics IX - Barcelona - Spain
1996 - Paralympics X - Atlanta - United States
2000 - Paralympics XI - Sydney - Australia
2004 - Paralympics XII - Athens - Greece
2008 - Paralympics XIII - Beijing - China
2012 - Paralympics XIV - London - United Kingdom
2016 - Paralympics XV - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil
2020 - Paralympics XVI - Tokyo - Japan

Latest Paralympic Games Publications

IPC Wheelchair Dance announce changes to 2014 - 17 rulebook, including athlete eligibility, general rules for freestyle, showdance and judging criteria.

US Olympic Committee announces Boston will represent US in bid to host 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In the last 25 years the IPC has been transformed from a disability organization into one of worlds most respected international sporting bodies.

The International Paralympic Committee changes its rulebook for wheelchair dance sport, with the new rules being implemented from 2014-2017.

IPC targeting gender parity at future Paralympic Games in terms of participation and number of medal events.

IPC Ice Sledge Hockey reveals competition cycle and qualification criteria for PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

Infographic contains information on how the 2012 Paralympic Games affected public perceptions of disability.

Early disability competitions were spectacles with disabled athletes showcased in tradition of 19th century freak shows.

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