In the largest Paralympic Games ever, 4200 athletes from over 140 countries will be competing in 20 different games in the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games taking place between August 29 and September 9. The city of London is bringing the Games back to the country that gave birth to the Paralympic movement in 1948, when Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organized a wheelchair archery competition at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for sixteen World War II soldiers with spinal cord injuries.
The Paralympic Games offer sports opportunities for athletes that have a primary impairment belonging to one of the following eligible impairment types:
- Impaired muscle power
- Impaired passive range of movement
- Limb deficiency
- Leg length difference
- Short stature
- Vision impairment
- Intellectual impairment
The athletes in each sport receive a classification. The website of the official paralympic movement describes it this way:
To ensure competition is fair and equal, all Paralympic sports have a system in place which ensures that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus, the same factors that account for success in sport for able bodied athletes. This process is called “classification” and its purpose is to minimise the impact of impairments on the activity (sport discipline).
The twenty sports in which those athletes will compete are:
- Football 5-a-side
- Football 7-a-side
- Table tennis
- Sitting volley ball
- Wheelchair basketball
- Wheelchair fencing
- Wheelchair rugby
- Wheelchair tennis
Some of these sports were new to me, so I looked them up in Wiktionary. The term “football” is used in the international sense to mean what we Americans call soccer. The 5-a-side football is an adapted form of football/soccer for people with visual impairments or blindness, while the 7-a-side football is an adapted form for people with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders. Boccia is an adapted form of bocce, or bowls, for people with impaired motor skills. Goalball is a ball game designed for the blind, in which teams of three players attempt to throw a ball embedded with bells into the opposing team’s goal.
It all looks like a thoroughly exciting occasion. You can find much more information about the 2012 Paralympic Games here.