The Paralympics is a sporting festival held every four years in conjunction with the Olympic Games that allows the world's best disabled athletes to compete on the world stage. The paralympic movement was started in Great Britain after the Second World War as a way to encourage amputee veterans to participate in sports.
London hosted the 2012 Paralympics, beginning two weeks after hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics. The opening ceremony on August 29, 2012 featured Stephen Hawking and Sir Ian McKellen as well as Queen Elizabeth II and the over 4,000 participating athletes. In the UK, the ceremony was watched live on Channel 4 by an audience of 11.2 million (peak figure, averaging 7.7 million over four hours), Channel 4's biggest audience in ten years.
The games date back to an athletic competition organized by the spinal cord injury department of the Stoke Mandeville Rehabilitation Hospital in England. In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a neurosurgeon, started organizing an annual competition to help rehabilitate injured war veterans.
In 1976, Sweden hosted the first Winter Paralympic Games. In the early years, the venue for the Paralympics was not linked to the Olympic Games. However, the games have been held in the same city starting with the 1988 Seoul Korea Summer Games and the 1992 Albertville Winter Games. In 2001, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee agreed that when a host city was awarded an Olympics, the contract would also include hosting the Paralympic Games.
About half of the International Paralympics Committee's (IPC) funding comes from the Paralympics: the IPC receives a flat fee from the local organizing committee of each Paralympics in exchange for the marketing rights to a particular game. The other half of the IPC's funding comes from the IOC and large corporate sponsors. Some corporate Olympic sponsors also sponsor the Paralympics.
In some countries, the government funds paralympic athletes and their participation in the Paralympics. In other countries, including the United States, the Paralympic organization must do its own charity fundraising.
Funding lawsuit in the United States
In 2003, U.S. Paralympic athletes Tony Iniguez, Scot Hollonbeck and Jacob Heilveil filed a lawsuit challenging unequal funding of Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The United States Olympic Committee did not deny that it provided less funding to Paralympic athletes, but noted that the USOC relies on revenue generated by the media exposure of its athletes, so the allocation of funds reflected the difference of media interest in the Olympics and the Paralympics. Lower courts ruled that the USOC has the right to allocate its finances to athletes at different rates. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. However, while the lawsuit was pending from 2003 to 2008, paralympic funding from the USOC nearly tripled. The $3 million the USOC allocated to the Paralympics in 2004 increased to $11.4 million in 2008.
- BBC News, August 30, 2012, Paralympics opening ceremony attracts 11 million
- History of the Paralympic Games. Retrieved on August 30, 2012.
- IPC Funding. Retrieved on August 30, 2012.
- "Court Lets Ruling Stand in U.S.O.C. Case", New York Times, October 6, 2008. Retrieved on August 30, 2012.
- Schwarz, Alan. "Paralympic Athletes Add Equality to Their Goals", New York Times, NYTimes.com, Septmeber 5, 2008. Retrieved on August 30, 2012.