The Paralympic Games (‘para’ meaning alongside) were fantastic in Sydney and the London Paralympics have started well with a clever advertising campaign by Chanel 4 to promote their coverage. With posters stating “Thanks for the warm-up” spread throughout England and on the billboard immediately outside the Olympic Park, in London.
I remember the excitement of Louise Sauvage winning gold in the 5,000 metre wheelchair race and watching the wheelchair basketball and rugby (known as murder ball). I don’t think I vee seen such a ferocious sport.
The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games started on 18 October 2000 with the opening ceremony held at Stadium Australia. Over the following ten days, the event hosted 18 sports and brought together 4000 athletes from 125 different countries. Tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies sold rapidly, while reserved seating and day passes attracted 1,108,914 spectators to the sports events.
The London Paralympic Games has expanded from Sydney and Beijing with 4,200 athletes from more than 160 nations competing. The familiar face of Oscar Pistorius and his even more recognizable blades have helped to take the Paralympics movement to the masses – with 2.3 million tickets already sold and organizers expect the remaining 200,000 to sell as well.
The South African will be defending the three titles won four years ago at the Beijing Paralympics, just weeks after becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics.
The games have evolved from their beginning in Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire in 1948. A Jewish refugee from Germany and neurologist, Dr Ludwig Guttman first organised an athletic event for disabled athletes and war veterans, believing sport would help them feel good. And in 1960 he took 400 athletes to the Olympic Games in Rome to compete in parallel events.