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Paralympic Games History - Summer
2012 London, Great Britain
29 August-9 September 2012:
The London 2012 Paralympic Games set a new standard for Paralympic sport and were widely regarded as one of the most successful Paralympic Games ever.
A total of 4,237 athletes competed in London, from 164 countries in 503 medal events. There were outstanding athletic achievements on the field, with 251 world records and 314 Paralympic records broken, while off the field, the Games were enjoyed by approximately 2.7 million spectators and broke media coverage records internationally. More than 100 countries broadcast the London Paralympics.
The medal tally was again topped by China, winning 95 gold medals, followed by Russia (35), Great Britain (34), Ukraine (32) and Australia (32).
Australia sent its largest ever team to an away Games with 161 athletes and 144 staff. Australia won 32 gold, 23 silver and 30 bronze medals to again finish fifth on the overall medal tally and equal fourth on the gold medal tally. Australia won six more medals than in Beijing, including nine more gold, and finished just two gold medals behind the host nation, Great Britain.
Highlights from the Games include swimmer Jacqueline Freney, who won eight gold medals from eight events, with two world records. Freney became the most decorated Australian Paralympian at a single Games, and won more gold medals than any other athlete in London. Fellow swimmer Matthew Cowdrey became Australia’s most prolific gold medallist, continuing his outstanding career to win five gold, two silver and one bronze medal. Cowdrey’s total gold medal haul now stands at 13 gold. Sprinter Evan O’Hanlon won two gold medals on the track in the 100m and 200m, both in world record times while Australia’s wheelchair rugby team won its first ever gold medal at a Paralympic Games.
2008 Beijing, China
6-17 September 2008:
The Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games signalled the beginning of a new era in Paralympic Sport. A total of 3,951 athletes from 146 countries competed at the Games which saw a total of 472 medal events contested - 262 for men, 176 for women and 34 for mixed. The disability groups included spinal injury, amputee, visually impaired, cerebral palsy and les autres.
The Games saw a total of 279 new world records set, and 339 Paralympic records broken. The medal tally was topped by the host country, China, winning 89 gold medals, followed by Great Britain (42), the United States (36), Ukraine (24), and Australia with 23.
Australia sent its largest ever team to an away Games – 177 athletes and 121 staff. Although finishing fifth on the gold medal tally, Australia finished fourth on the total medal tally with its 79 medals coming in the form of 23 gold, 29 silver and 27 bronze.
There were many extraordinary performances by Australian athletes in Beijing. Swimmer Matthew Cowdrey became the leading medal winner of the Games when he won five gold and three silver medals. The performances of fellow swimmer Peter Leek (8 medals including 3 gold), track sprinters Heath Francis (3 gold medals, 2 world records) and Evan O’Hanlon (3 gold medals, 3 world records), wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley (marathon gold less than 12 hours after 1500m final) and the men’s wheelchair basketball team (gold medal) were equal of any at the Games.
2004 Athens, Greece
17-29 September 2004:
Athens hosted 136 competing nations for the 12th Paralympic Summer Games. For 17 of these nations it was their first Paralympic Games. During Games time, the Paralympic Village was home to 3,806 athletes, approximately 2,200 NPC team officials and 1,000 Games officials. Excellent sporting performances in 19 sports resulted in 304 world records and 448 Paralympic records.
China claimed top spot on the final medal tally winning 141 medals in total. Australia placed second on total medals winning 100; 26 gold, 38 silver and 36 bronze. The strict selection criteria set by the APC and sports only meant athletes with the potential to win a medal were selected on the team. As such, the total Australian team size was much smaller than Sydney’s, four years earlier, with 252 athletes and officials.
There were a number of stand out athletes for Australia, all collecting multiple medals. Winning a total of six medals, and the largest individual medal haul by an Australian, was swimmer Chantel Wolfenden. Close behind with five medals, was Prue Watt, also a swimmer. There were five athletes who won four medals each; track athlete Tim Sullivan, winning gold in all four of his sprint events, tandem cyclist Lindy Hou, track athlete Heath Francis, swimmer Matt Cowdrey and fellow swimmer Ben Austin. Finally, six athletes collected three medals each; Don Elgin (athletics), Kurt Fearnley (athletics), Neil Fuller (athletics), Kieran Modra (cycling), Chris Scott (cycling) and Darren Thrupp (athletics).
Download the 2004 Athens Media Guide
2000 Sydney, Australia
18-29 October 2000:
The Sydney Games attracted 3,843 athletes from 125 countries. The home team comprised 436 athletes and officials, contesting all of the 18 sports on offer. The incredibly successful Sydney Games gave Australian Paralympism its most definitive boost with the largest attendances, most comprehensive media coverage and best-performed Paralympic team in history. Dr Robert Steadwood, then President of the IPC declared Sydney the “best Games ever”.
After a glittering opening ceremony, 1.1 million spectators packed out the events over the 11 days of competition. The organising committee, through the Link Elite Athlete Program, aimed to attract Sydney school children to experience the spirit of the Games and the response was overwhelming. One of the enduring images of 2000 Games was the singing of the national anthem by hundreds of proud Australian children.
The Sydney Games were also the most successful ever for Australia, who finished on top of the medal table with 149 medals – 63 gold, 39 silver and 47 bronze. All in all, the 2000 Paralympic Games went a long way to changing attitudes and mindsets and justified the APC’s long held position that at all times Paralympic athletes are regarded as elite sportspeople.
1996 Atlanta, USA
16-25 August 1996:
The Australian Team that returned from these Games was hailed the most successful Australian sporting team ever. Although just 166-strong, the Australians led the medal tally until the final day of competition – ahead of much larger teams from Germany, Great Britain, Spain and host nation USA.
Australia finished second on the gold medal tally with 42 gold, 37 silver and 27 bronze; a total of 106 medals. Apart from the medal haul and the second placing on the tally, it was the fact the team collected medals in 10 of the 13 sports that Australia contested, which delighted the Australian Paralympic Federation (now the Australian Paralympic Committee). At the Games, 3195 athletes competed, representing 103 countries.
1992 Barcelona, Spain
3-14 September 1992:
The 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games were held across two cities; Barcelona staged events for the physical and sensory disabilities classes and Madrid for athletes with an intellectual disability. 3020 athletes competed in the Games representing 82 countries.
Australia sent a team of 185 athletes, who returned with a haul of 76 medals – 24 gold, 27 silver and 25 bronze. This medal tally placed Australia in first position in Madrid and seventh in Barcelona among the 93 competing nations. The Australian teams won medals in three, of the 12 sports - swimming, athletics and weightlifting.
Download the 1992 Barcelona Media Guide
1988 Seoul, Korea
15-24 October 1988:
The Opening Ceremony for the 1988 Summer Paralympic Games was held on 15 October before a crowd of 75,000. A record number of 3,053 competitors from 61 countries took part in the parade. There were 16 events on the program: Archery, Athletics, Basketball, Boccia, Cycling, Fencing, Football, Goalball, Judo, Lawn Bowls, Powerlifting, Shooting, Snooker, Swimming, Table Tennis and Volleyball. Wheelchair Tennis was introduced as a demonstration event.
Australia’s Paralympians won 96 medals, including 23 gold. At the Games, 3053 athletes competed representing 61 countries.
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1984 Stoke Mandeville, UK & New York, USA
16-30 June (NY) and 22 July – 1 August (UK):
The 1984 Paralympic Games was spread across two continents, Europe and America. As there was no formal relationship with the organisers of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the decision was made to split the events. Amputee and les autres athletes, cerebral palsy athletes and visually impaired athletes competed in New York, USA, while athletes with spinal cord disabilities competed in Stoke Mandeville, England.
1,800 athletes from 45 countries arrived in New York for competitions from 16 to 30 June, with 900 medals to be won. Funding for the Games came from a combination of private and governmental sources, with the larger part donated by the US Federal Government through its US Information Agency.
The Games in Stoke Mandeville, England, were held from 22 July to 1 August. The British Paraplegic Sports Society (BPSS) organised the Games at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium. More than 1,100 athletes from 41 countries competed in 14 events.
The organisers agreed that the Games should in future be held at the same venue, as the success of the Paralympics calls for unified representation and participation. The four international federations— the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CP-ISRA), the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA), the International Sport Organisation for the Disabled (ISOD), and the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation (ISMGF)—came together to form the International Coordinating Committee of World Organisations for the Disabled (ICC). The ICC was to serve as the governing body for the Paralympic Games.
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1980 Arnhem, Netherlands
Opened 21 June 1980:
At the 1980 Arnhem (Netherlands) Games, selected events for cerebral palsy athletes became part of the Paralympic program for the first time. Forty-two countries took part with a total of 1,973 athletes competing. Of these, 1,055 were wheelchair athletes, 452 were amputee athletes, 341 were visually impaired athletes and 125 were cerebral palsy athletes.
With so many different classes, there were more than 3,000 gold, silver and bronze medals to be won. The problem of medal inflation was only to be stabilised after another two Paralympic Games. Still, the athletes clearly deserved these honours for their top performances.
The Arnhem Paralympics served to consolidate the sports programs of the four major disability groups, represented by their international sport federations, in one venue for the first time. It also initiated the creation of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC), in which each federation was represented. By the end of the 1980s, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was to emerge as the governing body of the Paralympic Games.
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1976 Toronto, Canada
3-11 August 1976:
The 1976 Paralympic Games was attended by 40 countries with 1,657 athletes, 253 of whom were women. Several countries had withdrawn from the Games, due to the participation of South Africa during the apartheid era.
The task of organisation became more complicated, simply because more sport classifications were involved than ever before. Also, the accommodation of athletes with differing disabilities posed new challenges. It was becoming clear that an international body was needed, which would oversee and organise a multi-disability Paralympic Games.
For the first time, 261 amputees and 187 visually impaired athletes were included in the program. In track wheelchair races, new distances of 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m were added to the program. Goalball became a medal event after demonstration events took place at Heidelberg (1972), as did shooting where demonstration events took place in Stoke Mandeville (1952).
For the first time, television coverage of the Paralympic Games was broadcast daily to more than 600,000 viewers. At the Opening Ceremony 24,000 spectators cheered on the athletes at the Woodbine race track.
Australia finished 11th on the medal tally with 42 medals - 16 gold, 18 silver and 8 bronze - which almost doubled Australia’s medal haul in Heidelberg four years earlier.
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1972 Heidelberg, Germany
2-9 August 1972:
The 1972 Paralympics in Heidelberg was the fourth Paralympics Games ever held. It was not held in the same city as the Summer Olympic Games. The International Stoke Mandeville Games Committee had initially planned that the German Disabled Sports Association (DVS) would stage the Games in Munich following the Olympic Games, which was held between 26 August and 11 September 1972. However after the Summer Olympics, the Olympic village was to be closed and converted into private apartments, so an alternative had to be found.
The city of Heidelberg stepped in and invited the organisers to stage the Games at the University’s Institute for Physical Training. As a result, the Paralympic Games were held before the Olympic Games in that year. Had the event been staged as initially planned in Munich after the Olympic Games, the tragic massacre during the Munich Olympics may have affected the running of the Paralympic Games in 1972.
1,004 athletes from 41 countries took part in the Games.
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1968 Tel Aviv, Israel
4-13 November 1968:
Approximately 750 athletes representing 29 countries competed at the 1968 Paralympic Games, the third summer Paralympic Games. In total, there were 181 events contested in 10 sports.
The 1968 Olympic Games were held in Mexico. The organisers of the event had initially planned to stage the Olympic and Paralympic Games back-to-back, however two years out from the Games the Mexican government withdrew their offer to host the Paralympics. Israel then made an offer to host the Games, which was motivated by plans to mark the country’s 20th anniversary of independence.
The USA topped the medal count winning 99 medals (33 gold, 27 silver, 39 bronze). The next best was Great Britain with 69 medals, Israel with 62 medals and Australia in fourth winning 38 medals; 15 gold, 16 silver and 7 bronze.
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1964 Tokyo, Japan
The Opening Ceremony for the second official Paralympic Games (first time officially under the name Paralympic) was held on 3 November 1964, in front of approximately 5,000 spectators. 357 athletes took part in the Games, representing 21 countries.
Funding for the Games was raised through donations from a range of public and private Japanese businesses. Major contributors were the National and Metropolitan Governments, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, the Professional Baseball Association and some 2,000 smaller contributors.
In Japan, the Games received significant media coverage contrary to concern the organisers had following the high profile Olympic Games.
Australia won a total of 30 medals – 12 gold, 11 silver, 7 bronze – to finish fourth on the medal tally.
1960 Rome, Italy
The Opening Ceremony for the first recognised Paralympic Games was held on 18 September 1960, with a crowd of 5,000 spectators welcoming 400 athletes, from 23 countries to Rome.
Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the creator of the Stoke Mandeville Games which became the precursor to the Paralympic Games, had a vision of an international games for athletes with a disability, the equivalent of the Olympic Games. This vision began to take shape in 1958 when Guttmann and Professor Antonia Maglio, Director of the Spinal Center at the Italian Institute INAIL, had started preparations to stage the International Stoke Mandeville Games in Rome. At the time the Games were still referred to as the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games. The term "Paralympic Games" was only approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later in 1984. This was the first Games where the Paralympic Games were held at the same venues as the Olympic Games.
Despite all good intentions, the Games provided organisers, athletes and support staff with significant challenges to overcome and learn from. Accessibility for athletes in wheelchairs had not been considered as part of the village and transport planning. Athletes had to be carried up stairs in the village and transport to venues some distance from the village provided considerable challenges. The organisers enlisted the support of the local military to assist the athletes within the village and competition venues.
The sports program consisted of eight sports, all for persons’ with a spinal cord injury, including: Snooker, Fencing (foil or sabre), Javelin and Precision Javelin, Shot Put, Indian Club Throwing (throwing a baton), men’s Wheelchair Basketball and Swimming (Freestyle, Breaststroke and Backstroke). Other events were: Table Tennis (singles and doubles), Archery, Dart Archery and the Pentathlon (Archery, Swimming, Javelin, Shot Put and Club Throwing).