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MOSCOW, March 07, /ITAR-TASS/. The first sports club for deaf people opened in Berlin in 1888, yet it was only after World War II that sports for physically challenged people gained currency.
The Paralympic Movement was initiated by the German-born neurologist Ludwig Guttmann. In 1944, while working at the national spinal injuries centre in Stoke Mandeville, UK, he made physical exercises a compulsory part of complex treatment. On July 29, 1948, on the opening day of XIV Summer Olympics in London, Guttman arranged an archery tournament for 16 wheelchair patients of the hospital. The competition was dubbed the Stoke Mandeville Games.
In 1952 the tournament welcomed Dutch athletes. In 1952-1960 the Stoke Mandeville Games which had acquired an international status were held annually and became world famous. The 1954 Games were the first occasion when athletes from Australia, Finland, Egypt and Israel participated in the event.
The1960 Stoke Mandeville Games are considered the first Summer Paralympics. These were the first Games outside Britain, this time in Rome, a week after closing of the XVII Summer Olympics. Participation was allowed not only for disabled veterans of WWII but also for other physically challenged wheelchair athletes. The number of disciplines increased considerably - medal sets were available in athletics, swimming, fencing, archery, basketball, table tennis, billiards, and Paralympic darts. The number of participating countries grew to 23, while the number of athletes reached 400.
The 1976 Summer Paralympics in Toronto, Canada, were the first Games to see not only wheelchair-athletes but also people with amputated extremities as well as visually impaired athletes - a total of 1,600 from 40 countries.
The first Winter Paralympic Games took place in the locality of ·rnsk·ldsvik, Sweden, in 1976 where 53 athletes from 16 countries vied for medals in cross-country and Alpine skiing.
In 1988 the VIII Summer Paralympics were the first-ever games for disabled athletes held immediately after the Olympics. In Seoul, South Korea, Paralympic athletes competed at the same facilities as the Olympic sportsmen. This procedure took root but was not officially adopted until 2001.
At the X Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver, Canada in 2010, 502 athletes from 44 countries competed in five disciplines: cross-country skiing, biathlon, Alpine skiing, wheelchair curling and sledge-hockey. The competition hit a Winter Paralympics box office record (230,000 tickets) and enjoyed a total TV audience of 1.6 billion.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) with headquarters in Bonn, Germany, was established in 1989 and now comprises more than 170 national organizations. Philip Craven from Britain has been the IPC President since 2001. The organization uses its own emblem, flag, anthem and a motto - “Spirit in Motion”.
The term “Paralympic” was derived from paraplegia - impairment of the lower extremities. Later on, when athletes with other diseases started to partake in the competitions, the name was reinvented as comprising the Greek prefix para- which means “near”. The term now hints at the parity of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, their parallel existence and cooperation.