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What’s the History Behind the Paralympics?

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The September 7 Google Doodle is a celebration of the beginning of the Paralympic Games. As with the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro is hosting the Paralympics.

So, what are the Paralympic Games?

The History

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In the years following World War II, improvements in medicine made it possible for patients with spinal injuries to live longer lives. Dr. Ludwig Guttman, a Jewish man who escaped Nazi Germany, cared for British veterans, many of whom were wheelchair-bound or amputees.

On the opening day of the 1948 London Olympic Games, Dr. Guttman organized an event of his own: The Stoke Mandeville Games, named after the hospital that cared for the participants. Originally an archery competition for British veterans, the games became international in 1952.

1960 marked the first official Paralympic games, and an unofficial partnership with the International Olympic Committee; the Paralympic Games would now occur in the same city as the Olympics. It wasn’t until the 1988 Olympics in Seoul that the tradition of the Paralympics following the Olympic Games began.

At last, in 2000, IOC and the International Paralympic Committee officially became partners. A major condition of this partnership is that any city hosting the Olympics must host the Paralympic Games as well.

Paralympics Today

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Since 2000, the Paralympics have seen an increase in visibility alongside the Olympic Games. This has included things like a separate Paralympic countdown clock and flying the Games’ flags side by side in a show of solidarity.

This year, over 4,000 athletes from over 160 different countries will compete in the Rio Paralympics.

The policy that requires both games to be held in the same city will be in effect until 2032. The President of the International Paralympic Committee has not ruled out the possibility of a merger in the future.

The Paralympics will run from September 7 to September 18. Information about broadcasting is available on the Paralympic website.


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