Dr Ludwig Guttmann was a German Jew who left Germany to escape Nazi persecution. He established the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville hospital and found that many of the hospital’s patients were young men injured in the Second World war. Guttmann believed that sport was would be good for the patients’ physical and emotional well-being and in 1948 organised the Stoke Mandeville games for British World War II veterans. This was the first event organised solely for disabled athletes. In 1952 injured Dutch veterans were invited to Stoke Mandeville to compete against the British.

Eight years later, in 1960, Sir Ludwig Guttmann took a team of disabled athletes to Rome to compete in a games parallel to the Summer Olympics. They were a great success and the Paralympic Games have been held immediately after the main Summer Olympics ever since. The first Paralympic Winter Olympics were held in 1976.


The Paralympics are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) which is based in Bonn, Germany. The IPC is supported by National Paralympic Committees (NPC) that represent athletes with impairments from their respective countries.

The Paralympics share many of the traditions of the Olympic games:

They begin with an Opening Ceremony and end with a Closing Ceremony

The Olympic flame burns throughout the competition

Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded to winners

Paralympic symbol

The Paralympic symbol (above) consists of three agitos coloured red, blue and green.
The agitos are meant to symbolise movement and the colours are the three most popular colours on national flags.

Although some Paralympic sports are specific to certain disabilities eg Wheelchair events, other events are open to a range of disabilities. To ensure equality and fairness the Paralympic Governing body has defined disabilities into five main groups – amputees, cerebral palsy, spinal injuries, visually impaired and others.

Summer Paralympics

Sports that have featured in the Summer Games are:

Archery, Athletics, Basketball, Boccia, Cycling, Dartchery, Equestrian, 5 a side Football, 7 a side Football, Goalball, Judo, Lawn Bowls, Powerlifting, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Snooker, Swimming, Table Tennis, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Fencing, Wheelchair Rugby, Wheelchair Tennis, Wrestling

Summer Paralympic Host Cities:

1960 Rome 1988 Seoul
1964 Tokyo 1992 Barcelona
1968 Tel Aviv 1996 Atlanta
1972 Heidelberg 2000 Sydney
1976 Toronto 2004 Athens
1980 Arnhem 2008 Beijing
1984 New York 2012 London

Winter Paralympics

Sports that have featured in the Winter Games are:

Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey, Wheelchair Curling

Winter Paralympic Host Cities:

1976 Ornskoldsvik 1994 Lillehammer
1980 Geilo 1998 Nagano
1984 Innsbruck 2002 Salt Lake City
1988 Innsbruck 2006 Turin
1992 Albertville 2010 Vancouver

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"The Olympics – Paralympics" History on the Net
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January 27, 2023 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/the-olympics-paralympics>
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