You thought that when the closing ceremonies took place in Vancouver, BC at the end of February, the high-caliber athletes had almost all left town. But there would be, in March, a parallel “Olympics”, he Paralympics, coming to the Canadian city. This involves a number of athletes who compete at the highest levels despite their physical disabilities.
The Paralympics started in 1960 (summer) and 1976 (winter), and has its own governing board, separate from the IOC. Yet, since the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea in 1988, the location of these games have paralleled the locations of the Summer and Winter Olympics. At least for the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Olympics and the Paralympics share a common organizing committee. I called the U.S. folks in the Paralympic movement to clarify the relationship between the two groups, but the public relations person was not available.
The summer and winter games include the following sports, governed by the IPC: Alpine Skiing, Athletics, Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey, Powerlifting, Shooting, Swimming, Wheelchair Dance Sport, plus several sports regulated by international federations, and a handful of others under the jurisdiction of International Organization of Sport for the Disabled.
The Paralympics are not to be confused with the Special Olympics, founded by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. “For people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is often the only place where they have an opportunity to participate in their communities and develop belief in themselves.”
Of course, there are the Olympics, which ran for about 1000 years, then was canceled for over a millennium, with a few furtive attempts to restart during that time. I’m not going to talk about the modern Games, which started in 1896, except for three things:
1) if I ever get to Switzerland, I MUST go to the Olympic museum
2) a really cool feature on the olympic.org site is feature that can retrieve all the Olympic results from 1896 through 2008; Vancouver is not yet represented.
3)Juan Antonio Samaranch, former IOC head, recently died. Got to say that he really modernized the financing of the games, though there were some issues over the Salt Lake City Games. And, except for American Avery Brundidge, he was the only IOC head I could name.
Sumi, the Paralympics mascot