The Paralympic Games

Sochi 2014 logo.

The next Winter Paralympic Games will take place between 7-16 March 2014 at Sochi, Russia.

The next Summer games will be held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from September 7 to September 18, 2016.

Summer Sports
Winter Sports

The Paralympic games have become a major sporting event that thousands of sportsmen and women compete in. The athletes who compete in these games will have a mental or physical disability including amputations, blindness, and Cerebral Palsy. Every single competitor is there because of their talents and amazing abilities. Wheelchair sports have come a long way since the humble beginnings of this competition.

Perhaps unknown to most there are in fact two of these events, both a Summer and a Winter event following their respective Olympic Games. The Paralympic Games originated in 1948 as a sports competition for British World War II Veterans. It grew from a very small gathering to one of the largest sports events in the world. Four years after it all began veterans from the Netherlands joined them, making it the first international competition of its kind. It took until 1960 for Olympic style games to be included in the event, and in Rome that year the event was christened the Paralympics, and for the first time competition was no longer restricted to war veterans.

When the games reached Toronto in 1975 there were more events than simply wheelchair sports. It was decided to include more events, and begin a Winter Paralympic Games. The first ever Winter games was held in Sweden in 1976, and became the starting point for more events. Although these games were held every four years it was decided that as with  the other Winter Olympics they would hold it in even numbered years. The events that are included in the Winter Paralympics are wheelchair curling, sledge hockey, Alpine skiing and cross country skiing.

The competitors who compete in the Paralympic Games are recognized for their amazing talents and abilities, and not for their disabilities. The numbers that now compete in the games have risen from a impressive 400 from 23 different countries to an incredible 34,302 from 164 countries in London in 2012. Although there are still many different wheelchair sports, the huge variety of disabilities means that the events have been split into categories. 

There are six main broad categories, Cerebral Palsy, amputees, intellectual disability, wheelchair, visually impaired, and then a group called Les Autres (The Others). The categories are then broken down further depending on the degree of the disability of the competitor. These categories can be seen on our Paralympic Winter Sport Classification and Paralympic Summer Sport Classification pages. There have been many amazing milestones for the Paralympic Games over the years. The organizers and committee members have fought hard and long to ensure that these games were recognized alongside the Olympic Games. In 2001 a contract was signed stating that every country that hosted the Olympics had to host the Paralympics as well.

The Paralympic Games charter states clearly that the practice of sport is a human right, and the organizers and competitors have ensured that this is maintained. The committee wants to change public opinion on disabled people, and show them that they are just like everyone else in the world.

Although the two Olympic Games should be side by side in all things including media coverage and funding, this is still not the case. Hopefully, with more interest and greater awareness that these amazing events are far more than simply wheelchair sports, the Paralympic Games will continue to go from strength to strength.

IPC Logo

The logo of the Paralympic Games, and of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)  (since 2004).

Paralympic sports comprise all the sports contested in the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. From 2012 the Summer Paralympics has 21 sports and around 500 events, while the Winter event has 5 sports and disciplines and around 64 events. The number and mix of events may change from one Paralympiad to another.

The Paralympic Games are a major international multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities and includes athletes with mobility impairments, amputations, blindness, and Cerebral Palsy. Paralympic sports are organized competitive sporting activities and are part of the global Paralympic movement. They are organized and supervised by the International Paralympic Committee and other international sports federations.


In track events, the winner is the first past the finishing line. In some field events, however, the furthest throw is not always the outright winner as results can be ‘factored’. The results must take into account each competitor's degree of the impairment. The athlete secures a number of points for each throw based on a combination of the distance and the level of impairment. The gold medal will be awarded to the competitor with the highest number of points.

In ‘combined’ events, where multiple classification groups compete against each other (indicated by the presence of a forward slash in the event title e.g. F32/51 Discus or F55/56 Discus), athletes break records within their own classification group only. In Beijing in the F33/34/52 Discus, records were broken for two different classifications: British athlete Chris Martin set a Paralympic record for the F33 class and Latvian athlete Aigars Apinis set a world record for the F52 class.

Athletes with visual impairment may be assisted by guides on the field or the track without giving the athletes any unfair advantages.

Disability categories

There are six major Paralympic categories, based on impairment type:

Amputee: a partial or total amputation of at least one limb.

Cerebral palsy: a non-progressive neurological disorder resulting from cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or stroke, or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.

Intellectual disability: a significant impairment in intellectual functioning with associated limitations in adaptive behaviour.

Les autres: From the French for 'the others', and includes those with a mobility impairment or other loss of physical function that does not fall strictly into one of the other five categories. This includes dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or other disabilities.

Visually impaired: a non-correctable vision impairment ranging from partially sighted to total blindness.

Wheelchair: a disability that requires them to compete using a wheelchair. Includes most athletes with spinal cord injuries as well as other athletes who require wheelchairs, including some lower limb amputees, persons with polio, and other disabilities.

Category Abbreviations:

ALAAmputee and les autres
CPCerebral palsy
IDIntellectual disability
VIVisually impaired

Current Summer sports

SportCategoriesincluded since
ArcheryALA, CP, WC1960
AthleticsALA, CP, ID, VI, WC1960
BocciaALA, CP, WC1984
CyclingALA, CP, VI, WC1988
EquestrianALA, CP, VI, WC1996
Football 5-a-SideVI2004
Football 7-a-SideCP1984
PowerliftingALA, CP, WC1964
RowingALA, CP, VI, WC2008
SailingALA, CP, VI, WC2000
ShootingALA, CP, VI, WC1976
SwimmingALA, CP, ID, VI, WC1960
Table tennisALA, CP, ID, WC1960
Wheelchair BasketballALA, WC1960
Wheelchair FencingWC1960
Wheelchair RugbyWC2000
Wheelchair TennisWC1992

Discontinued Summer sports

Basketball IDID1996–2000
Lawn bowlsALA, CP, VI, WC1968–1988, 1996
SnookerWC1960–1976, 1984–1988

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Current Winter sports

Alpine skiingALA, CP, VI, WC1976
Ice sledge hockeyALA, CP, WC1994
BiathlonALA, CP, VI, WC1988
Cross Country SkiingALA, CP, VI, WC1976
Wheelchair CurlingWC2006

Discontinued Winter sports

Ice sledge racing1980–1988, 1994–1998

Possible future winter sports

The chairman of the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Athletes' Council, Bob Balk, launched a campaign in early 2012 to have sliding sports (bobsleigh, luge and skeleton) included at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeonghchang, South Korea.

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This work is a derivative of the Wikipedia page Paralympic sports.

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