Paralympic Games

We explain what the Paralympic Games are, their origin, categories and characteristics. In addition, differences with the Olympic Games.

paralympic games
The Paralympic Games take place every 4 years in a different city around the world.

What are the Paralympic Games?

Paralympics are the world’s largest international competition for athletes with disabilities. Like the regular Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games take place every 4 years in a different city around the world and sports delegations of different nationalities gather to compete in various disciplines over a couple of weeks.

These international competitions are organized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), a body based in Bonn, Germany, which cooperates closely with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The details of the ceremony, the execution of the games and other important details are collected in the Paralympic Charter.

For their part, Paralympic athletes are sports professionals grouped into ten categories according to their specific disability, called “disability layers”:

  • muscle power cape. It refers to different levels of muscle weakness or sluggishness, either in the whole body or in part, such as polio, spina bifida or spinal cord injuries.
  • Passive Range of Motion Cloak. Refers to congenital conditions of systematically reduced movement in one or more body joints.
  • Layer of loss or deficiency of a member. It refers to the lack or dysfunction of any bodily limb, as in the case of amputations and malformations.
  • short stature cape. Refers to height deficiency due to musculoskeletal deficit, dwarfism, or other similar conditions.
  • hypertonic layer. It refers to the abnormal tensioning of the body’s musculature, which prevents its natural relaxation, as a consequence of congenital conditions such as cerebral palsy.
  • ataxia layer. It refers to the loss of muscle coordination in cases of cerebral palsy, Friedreich’s ataxia and other similar conditions.
  • athetosis cloak. It refers to conditions of loss of body balance, involuntary muscle movements, and problems maintaining a symmetrical posture, a consequence of conditions such as cerebral palsy or choreoathetosis.
  • Visual Debuff Layer. It refers to the total or partial loss of vision, which is why athletes in this category compete together with specialized guides.
  • Cloak of Intellectual Debuff. It refers to conditions of high or severe cognitive or intellectual disability.
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Like the regular Olympics, the Paralympic Games award their most outstanding athletes with gold, silver and bronze medals, and organize them according to a complex classification system that takes into account the degree of disability and the effort expended.

It can serve you: Individual sports

Features of the Paralympic Games

paralympic games features guides
Some Paralympic disciplines involve guides for the blind.

In general, the Paralympic Games are characterized by the following:

  • They are similar to the Olympic Games, but dedicated to athletes with severe disabilities of various kinds. They receive gold, silver and bronze medals depending on their sports performance.
  • They cover a total of 25 sports disciplines, which vary depending on whether it is summer or winter. These disciplines are specifically designed to be practiced by athletes with a disability, which is why they often involve wheelchairs, guides for the blind, and other necessary elements.
  • Athletes who are classified into 10 categories competedepending on the type of disability they present.
  • They are organized by the International Paralympic Committeebased in Bonn, Germany.
  • They have as a symbol a logo based on the Tae-Geuks, a traditional Korean emblem similar to the one that appears on its flag, which combined the colors red, blue, and green. Later, this logo was stylized and in 2003 its current image was approved.
  • They are held every 4 years in a different city. At the beginning of each edition, the Paralympic Hymn (“Hymn of the Future”) is played, composed by Thierry Darnis and approved by the International Paralympic Committee in 1996.

Origin of the Paralympic Games

paralympic games origin history
The Paralympic Games seek to promote sport for people with disabilities.

The Paralympic Games are heirs to initiatives born in the mid-twentieth century and that sought to promote sport for people with disabilities, such as the International Sports Organization for the Disabled, founded in 1964. This organization sought to become an equivalent of the IOC that organizes the International Olympic Games.

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Thus, in 1982 the Committee for the International Coordination of Sports for the Disabled (CIC) was established. Thanks to the cooperation between these two bodies, The first Paralympics were held in Seoul in 1988. The success of this initiative was such that from 1989 the International Paralympic Committee (ICC) was founded.

From then on, the Paralympic Games gained greater popularity and international dissemination, and new agreements were reached with the IOC to share facilities and be jointly managed. For this reason, the Paralympic Games share a year with the traditional Olympics.

That way, the size and diversity of the Paralympic Games was increasinggoing from the 400 athletes from 23 countries competing in 8 sports that the competitions had in 1960, to the more than 4,200 athletes from 164 countries that currently compete in more than 20 different sports.

Modalities of the Paralympic Games

paralympic games modalities
In each modality of the Paralympic Games, specific sports are practiced.

The Paralympic Games have two modalities or editions, just like the regular Olympics: a summer edition and a winter one. Depending on what it is, some sports or others are practiced.

  • In the Paralympics of Summer Games are practiced: athletics, badminton, wheelchair basketball, boccia, cycling, wheelchair fencing, 5-a-side soccer, goalball, weightlifting, horse riding, judo, swimming, taekwondo, rowing, canoeing, wheelchair rugby, table tennis , wheelchair tennis, archery, Olympic shooting, triathlon and sitting volleyball.
  • In the Paralympic Winter Games are practiced: biathlon, wheelchair curling, alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, ice hockey and snowboarding.

Difference Between Olympic Games and Paralympic Games

olympic paralympics differences
The Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games have the same venue.

The difference between the Olympic Games and the Paralympics has to do with the athletes who compete in each. The Paralympic Games are designed for those sports professionals who suffer from some type of disability severe, and which have traditionally not been represented in Olympic competitions.

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Both competitions are very important and the olympic and paralympic committees work hard for the equality of their athletes, in such a way that the cities that host the Olympic Games must also host the Paralympics. A similar media coverage must also be guaranteed for both competitions.

More in: Olympic Games


  • “Paralympics” on Wikipedia.
  • “Paralympic Sports” in the Spanish Paralympic Committee.
  • “Paralympic Games All Editions” in International Paralympic Committee.
  • “Paralympic Games (sports)”in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.