the history of paralympic games

The History of the Paralympic Games

The closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics offered a formal celebration for athletes from all over the world who showcased their talents throughout the two weeks of the Tokyo Olympics for 2020. But the Olympic story does not have to end there because starting August 24th we get to do it all again and celebrate the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics! With this anticipation in mind, we thought it’d be exciting to look back and see how the modern Paralympics games came to fruition.

After World War II London hosted the Olympics Games on July 28, 1948, and on this same day, in a town about 35 miles northwest of London, another set of games took place. This was known as the Stoke-Mandeville Games for the Paralyzed, these games were held on the grounds of a hospital that treated injured veterans who competed in archery. Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, the head of the Stoke-Mandeville Hospital’s Spinal Injuries Unit, created these games after he realized that immobile bed rest was causing more damage than good to his patients. Guttmann began programs to strengthen his patients with simple games of wheelchair polo as well as basketball, darts, and archery. And his patients began to thrive on the competition and the idea of using competitive sports for people with physical disabilities took off.

Two years later the Stoke-Mandeville Games had expanded from 16 competitors to 60 and included javelin. Fast-forward to 1954, and more nations began to be represented at the Stoke-Mandeville Games, with athletes from places like Australia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Portugal. By 1960, the games had expanded to include swimming, fencing, basketball, and more with over 400 athletes from 23 different countries. With the excitement growing exponentially, the games in 1960 were held at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, just days after the Summer Olympics had concluded.

For more than a decade these games were only held for summer sports. But in 1976, in Sweden, 198 athletes from 16 countries competed in winter-focused sports in Sweden. Proving that these athletes could do just about anything.

The modern Paralympic era that we know and love today was first held in Seoul, South Korea in 1988. It proved to be an outstanding event with over 950 world records set. In addition, Paralympic athletes were able to have an official Opening Ceremony that featured skydivers, children, and wheelchair dancers. Today’s 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is already generating buzz, as international athletes will compete in 539 events across 22 sports. In addition, this year will feature new sports added to the Games including Para badminton and Para taekwondo!

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we may have had to wait a year to get the 2020 Paralympics but we think this one will be worth the wait. The 2020 Summer Paralympics will begin on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, and ends on Sunday, September 5. Click here to see how to watch and to keep up with all the excitement!