History of the Games

SM Opening Ceremony Sir Ludwig Guttman SM Archery  SM WC Basketball


The concept for the Paralympic Games was devised by Sir Ludwig Guttmann, an English neurosurgeon, in 1948 to provide athletic therapytreatment of a disease or disorder through a remedial process. for people in wheelchairs.  Under Guttman’s guidance, radical changes in the methods of treating people with spinal cordcord of nerve tissue extending through the spinal canal of the spinal column. injuries were introduced.  Guttman recognized the value of recreation and sport as a catalyst for rehabilitationto restore to good health through therapy after sickness or an accident. therapy and as a means to prevent boredom.


Some of the factors to evolve during this period after World War II which significantly influenced the development of sport for people with a disabilityA Disability is generally a condition either caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease, which may restrict a person's mental processes, senses or mobility. included:


  • The rapid advances in medical technology and care which resulted in better opportunities for survival from injuryharm or damage that it done. or illness;
  • the increased need to improve the quality of life of the thousands of military and civilian casualties who were left with permanent physical disabilities; and
  • the development of specialist spinal injuries unit.


Guttman organised the first International Wheelchair Games to coincide with the 1948 LondonHome of the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Olympic GamesThe Olympic Games are an international event of summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes compete in a wide variety of events. The Games are held every two years, with Summer and Winter Olympic Games alternating.. Held at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England with just a few athletes, the events were more about enhancing the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries than about competition.


In 1952, the Games became the International Stoke Mandeville Games (ISMG) when a small team of Dutch war veterans travelled to England to compete against the British athletes.


A deliberate attempt to connect the Olympic and Paralympic Games was not made until 1960 when the first Paralympic Games were held in Rome with 400 athletes from 23 countries participating.  Athletes competed in archery, basketball, fencing, javelin, shotput and three swimming events.  Since then the Olympic and Paralympic Games have led a parallelbeside; alongside; next to existence, being held in the same country or city whenever possible.


Governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPCInternational Paralympic Committee - International governing body of Paralympic sport.) and recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Paralympic Games has experienced phenomenal growth.  At the 1988 Seoul Paralympic Games, television rights were sold and a world wide audience was able to watch the Games and witness the commitment and prowess of the Paralympic competitors.


Today the Paralympic Games is one of the largest events in the world, eclipsing in size the Commonwealth GamesThe Commonwealth Games is a multinational, multi-sport event. Held every four years, it involves the elite athletes of the Commonwealth of Nations..  146 nations sent 3,951 athletes to compete at the 2008 BeijingHome of the 2008 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Paralympic Games, including 179 athletes from Australia making it the second largest sporting event after the Olympic Games.


Sir Ludwig Guttman died in 1980 but his vision for athletes with a disability continues.  The ParalympicsGames held in parallel (or beside) the Olympic Games for athletes with disabilities. now showcases the world’s elite athletes with a disability in a rigorous sporting competition where they thrill spectators, young and old, who fill the stadiums and amaze a potential international television audience of millions.


Paralympic Summer Games History


1960 – Rome, Italy

  • 400 athletes from 23 countries competed.
  • For the first time the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games were held in the same city.
  • Only wheelchair athletes competed.


1964 – Tokyo, Japan

  • 375 athletes from 21 countries competed.
  • Several new sports, including the 60 metre dash and 240 metre shuttle relay, wheelchair slaloma downhill race over a winding and zigzag course marked by poles or gates, powerliftinga competition testing strength (in the Paralympics this involves the bench-press only) and discus throw were introduced.
  • Tokyo was the first Games to have a Paralympic flag, anthem and poster.
  • The International Sports Organisation for the Disabled (ISOP) was founded in 1964.


1968 – Tel Aviv, Israel

  • 750 athletes from 29 countries competed.
  • The Paralympic Games were held in Tel Aviv as the 1968 Olympic host city, Mexico, experienced difficulty in accommodating the Paralympians.


1972 – Heidelberg, Germany

  • 1,004 athletes from 41 countries competed.
  • German vision impairedThis refers to any group condition which interferes with 'normal' vision. This incorporates the entire range of vision difficulties, from correctable conditions through to total blindness. athletes were included in several events, setting the stage for later inclusion.
  • Heidelberg was the first Paralympic Games held in Europe.


1976 – Toronto, Canada

  • 1,657 athletes competed from 32 countries.
  • It was called the Torontolympiad.
  • The Toronto Paralympic Games were the first to include amputees and vision impaired athletes.


1980 – Arnhem, The Netherlands

  • 1,973 athletes from 42 countries competed in Arnhem following the boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games.
  • Athletes with cerebral palsyA disorder of movement and posture due to damage to an area of the brain that controls and coordinates muscle tone, reflexes, posture and movement. "Cerebral" mean brain-centred; "palsy" is a lack of muscle control. competed for the first time.
  • Separate organisations for athletes with a disability, other than spinal cord injuries were formed.
  • Sir Ludwig Guttman died in 1980.



  • The International Coordinating Committee of World Sport Organisation for the Disabled (ICC) was established to govern the Paralympic Games.



1984 – New York, USA / Stoke Maneville, England

  • 1,800 athletes from 45 countries competed in New York, and 1,100 athletes from 41 countries competed in Stoke Mandeville.
  • The Paralympic Games were split across the Atlantic with the wheelchair events held at Stoke Manderville, England and other events at Nassau County, Long Island, New York.
  • 1984 was the first Paralympic Games to benefit from the centralized control of a single international body.


1988 – Seoul, Korea

  • 3,057 athletes from 61 countries competed.
  • This was the first time Paralympians gained access to all the major Olympic facilities and competed at the same venues used by the Olympic athletes.


1992 – Barcelona, Spain

  • Barcelona was the first time the Paralympic Games had its own television signal and this media coverage introduced a new audience to the Paralympic Games.
  • 3,020 athletes from 82 countries competed and attracted 1.3 million spectators.
  • In Madrid, athletes with an intellectual disabilityIndividuals who have limitations in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behaviour. competed in athletics, swimming, basketball, football and table tennis.
  • ICC was replaced by a new governing body, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).


1996 – Atlanta, USA

  • 3,195 athletes from 103 countries competed.
  • 17 medal sports and two new demonstration sports, sailing and wheelchair rugby were introduced.
  • 10,000 volunteers worked at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games.
  • Tickets, television rights and sponsorship were sold for the first time.
  • More than 220 world records were broken at the Games.


2000 – Sydney, Australia

  • 3,824 athletes from 123 countries competed.
  • 300 world and Paralympic records were set.
  • 1.2 Million tickets were sold to Paralympic Games events.
  • 100 hours of Paralympic Games footage.


2004 – Athens, Greece

  • 3,469 athletes from 136 countries competed.
  • 617 hours of Paralympic Games footage broadcast in 25 countries.
  • At the closing ceremony, the new IPC logo was unveiled.


2008 – Beijing, China

  • The Beijing Games had 472 gold medals on offer and hosted 3,951 athletes and 2,000 officials.
  • Athletes from 146 countries participated in China.
  • There were 18 Paralympic venues, 16 in Beijing plus sailing in Qingdao and Equestrian in Hong Kong.
  • It was the second biggest sporting event in the world, watched by an estimated TV audience of 1.5 billion people.
  • A record number of 1.82million tickets were sold.