A quick guide to the Paralympics

How the Paralympics came to be

On the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist, organised the Stoke Mandeville Games (a wheelchair athlete competition). This was a competition that involved 16 injured servicemen and women, who were invited to participate in archery. Four years later, in 1952, Dutch ex-servicemen joined, and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were born. 

In 1960, the Stoke Mandeville Games turned into what is considered to be the first Paralympic Games — where 400 athletes from 23 countries competed. Ever since, the Games have been held every four years, and have been held at the same venues as the Olympic Games since 1988. 

By September 1989, the International Paralympic Committee was founded, acting as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement.


Classification is the official process by which athletes are deemed eligible to participate, and the structure for how they are categorised within events. The classification system group athletes with similar impairments, so the events are fair. Each athlete is required to undergo a classification assessment, with each event having multiple different classifications for athletes. An example is Australian athlete, Ellie Cole, who will compete in Para-swimming in the S9 division. Swimmers enter this class due to “weakness, lib loss or movement difficulties in one arm or leg only”. 

Australia in the Paralympics 

Australia has been participating in the Paralympic Games since the first-ever event in 1960. The first gold medal won by an Australian was Ross Sutton, who won gold in the Men’s St Nicholas Round open archery. In the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Australia finished fifth on the medal tally with 22 gold, 30 silver, and 29 bronze.  

For this year’s Paralympics, you can watch the Opening Ceremony at 9pm (AEST) on the Seven Network. The Games will conclude on Sunday, 5 September.

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