Paralympic Games

Historical Snapshot

The Paralympic Summer Games are the second largest mulit-sporting event in the world today - second only to the Olympic Games – while the Paralympic Winter Games have also established themselves as a major event on the international sport calendar.

Paralympic Games had their humble beginnings over fifty years ago, in Stoke Mandeville, England, where a doctor by the name of Ludwig Guttmann believed strongly in using sports therapy to enhance the quality of life for people who had been injured or wounded during World War ll.

Dr. Guttmann organized the International Wheelchair Games in 1948 to coincide with the London Olympic Games of that same year. His dream from that point onward was of a worldwide sporting competition the equivalent of the Olympic Games, to be held every four years for people with disabilities. This dream became a reality twelve years later as Rome, Italy hosted the first Paralympic Games in 1960.

The Paralympic Summer Games have had significant growth since 1960 when 400 athletes from 23 countries competed in Rome.  An all time high of 3,951 athletes from 146 countries competed in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and this trend is expected to continue in the London 2012 Paralympic Games where 4,200 athletes are expected to compete.

The Paralympics are held in two seasons: summer and winter. Athletes with a disability have been competing in the Winter Games since 1976. Sweden was the host for the very first Winter Games of that year, which included 12 countries competing in Alpine and Cross-Country skiing events. In 1992, the four-year cycle was modified so both the winter and summer Paralympic Games coincided with the Olympics.

Since that time, the Paralympics have been held immediately after the Olympic Games, utilizing the same venues and much of the same infrastructure. The Paralympics have come into an identity of their own, and are embraced as an integral part of the overall 60-day event experience in the host city. 


Originally only wheelchair athletes were invited to compete. However, since that time, the Paralympic Games have grown dramatically. The present day Paralympic Games include six major classifications of athletes: Spinal Cord Injury, Amputee, Visual Impairment, Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disability, and Les Autres- athletes with a physical disability that are not included in the categories mentioned above (e.g., people with Muscular Dystrophy).

The International Paralympic Committee

As the Paralympic Movement grew, separate organizations were formed to serve athletes who did not have spinal cord injuries, such as amputees, people who are visually impaired, and those with Cerebral Palsy. In 1982, the International Coordinating Committee of World Sport Organizations for the Disabled (ICC) was established to govern the Paralympics, and to represent the Games in dialogues with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other global organizations.

Ultimately, a new governing body, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), replaced the ICC in 1989. The IPC now includes more than 170 member nations as well as international federations and disability representative groups.


"To Enable Paralympic Athletes to Achieve Sporting Excellence and Inspire and Excite the World".


The IPC Logo and Motto

The International Paralympic CommitteeThe Paralympic logo consists of three elements in red, blue and green—the three colors that are most widely represented in national flags around the world. The shape of the three elements symbolizes the new vision of the IPC “To Enable Paralympic Athletes to Achieve Sporting Excellence and to Inspire and Excite the World”. The universality of the Paralympic Movement is shown through the round shape of the entire logo symbolizing the globe.

"Spirit in Motion" is the new Paralympic motto, expressing the inspirational character of the Paralympic Movement as well as the elite performance of Paralympic athletes. It also stands for the strong will of every Paralympian. The word "Spirit" is derived from the notion that the IPC, like the athletes it represents, has a drive to compete and to succeed. Thus, the IPC not only stages high performance sporting events around the world, but also carries the strong message of the Movement: the Paralympic Spirit. “Motion” relates to the idea that the IPC is truly moving forward—an organization that realizes its potential and is now striving to achieve it. Motion is ever present in the Movement, be it through athletes setting new records or the never-ending enthusiasm of volunteers and staff.

For more information on the IPC or the Paralympic Games please click here.


Beijing 2008 Vancouver IPC London