The history behind the Paralympic Games
After the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games kicked off on August 24th in the same city. Since when and why are these games being held?
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Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor who escaped from the Nazis, is the man who created the first ever paralympic games.
After World War II, Dr. Ludwig opened an injury center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain. This center was intended to help veterans of the war and civilians who had been injured during that period, since at the time paraplegics were considered hopeless cases who usually died sooner, according to TIME magazine.
From 1944 to 1948, Dr. Ludwig provided sports therapies to those who were admitted in the hospital, but eventually he realized that one way to encourage their recovery was to organize an event that would allow them to show the new skills they had developed after the war.
On July 29, 1948, Dr. Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes, which he called the Stoke Mandeville Games. Sixteen British veterans participated in this competition in the archery discipline.
Over the years, more delegations joined the annual competition, until the games began to be called ‘The Paralympic Games’ in Rome 1960, with the participation of 400 athletes from 23 countries.
In Seoul 1988, the Paralympic Games began to be held the same year and in the same place as the Olympic Games.
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
Like the Olympic Games, this year's Paralympics are held while maintaining pandemic-imposed biosafety protocols such as daily Covid-19 testing for athletes, mandatory use of masks and social distancing.
In addition, equipment such as wheelchairs must be disinfected regularly.
"I'm sure it will be a safe Games, but that doesn't mean there will be zero cases," Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, told the BBC.
In fact, so far five Paralympic athletes have tested positive for Covid- 19 in the Olympic village. One of them has been hospitalized, though doctors listed it as "not severe," the Paralympic Committee said.
This year, about 4.400 athletes from 162 national Paralympic committees are participating in 539 competitions in 22 sports.
Tokyo 2020 also includes new Paralympic sports such as para-badminton and para-taekwondo, which will feature 14 and six medal competitions respectively.