What are the Paralympic Games?

by Yazmin Macias / Sep 13, 2022



In this kid-friendly podcast, Worth Noting delves into hot topics in the world currently. Host Matthew Winner dives into each topic and brings information to the front. This episode focuses on the Paralympic Games that happen in conjunction with the Olympics. 

Matthew: The 2020 Paralympics are currently underway in Tokyo, following the 2020 Olympic Games. What sets the Paralympic Games and their athletes apart from the Olympic games? The answer is Worth Noting.


The Paralympic Games is an international sports competition for athletes with disabilities. The games occur in conjunction with the Olympic Games and similarly split into the Winter Games and the Summer Games.  


There are currently 28 Paralympic sports sanctioned by the International Paralympic Committee, or IPC. These include 22 summer sports and six winter sports. 


Listen as I read the events to see what sounds familiar to you and what might be new. 





The summer sports include archery, athletics, badminton, boccia, canoe, cycling, equestrian, football 5-a-side, goalball, judo, powerlifting, rowing, shooting para sport, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis.  


The winter sports are alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, para ice hockey, snowboard, and wheelchair curling. 


Do you recognize any of the sports I shared? Did you notice any words that, when paired, made the sport slightly different, like “wheelchair tennis”? Many of the sports played at the Paralympic Games closely resemble their Olympic Game counterparts, but with accommodations such as different equipment used by the athletes competing.

Because every athlete’s disability is different, the paralympic athletes compete in six different disability groups: amputee, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries, intellectual disability, and “les autre” (lay uwl-tra), which is French for “other” or “another”. “Les autre” is the group for athletes with disabilities that do not fit into one of the other five categories, such as people who have dwarfism.


Paralympic athletes are as varied as the ways that they compete in each sport and, for me, watching the Paralympic Games gives me an entirely different appreciation for athletes because they are using their bodies in ways different from how I use mine. 


The Paralympic Games first took place in Rome, Italy in 1960, though technically they began as the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 at the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games. Dr. Ludwig Guttman organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes after opening a spinal injuries center at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain after World War II.


The first Paralympics Winter Games were held in Sweden in 1976 and, shortly thereafter, in 1988 the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games began being held in the same cities and following the same schedule as the Olympic Games.


These 2020 Olympics were the first time in my memory that I can recall the Olympics and Paralympics being promoted hand-in-hand. That decision brings much greater awareness to the Paralympic Games and their athletes, but it also elevates the Paralympic Games to the same level as the Olympics. The logos are displayed side-by-side. Many companies are centering athletes of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are in a moment of visibility and of value that has not-before been shown to the Paralympic Games and this is of note for so, so many reasons. 


But let’s do what gives you the greatest sense of connection to these games: let’s tell stories and let’s learn names.   





Palak Kohli, an 18-year-old athlete from India, participates in badminton, one of two new events added to the Paralympics this year. Having only taken to the sport a few years ago, her meteoric rise is garnering attention all over the world.


Swimmer Abbas Karimi, born without arms and diagnosed with a congenital limb deficiency, represents millions of displaced people all over the world as one of six athletes on the Paralympic Refugee Team.


Ibrahim Hamadtou, a table tennis player from Egypt, also competes without the use of hands or arms. Holding the racket in his mouth and serving with his foot, Ibrahim’s athleticism is a reminder of surpassing limitations, no matter who holds those limitations in mind.

There are countless other names and teams and events to explore, but, most importantly and as always, the very best each of us can do is to go see for ourselves and go learn for ourselves. 


Visibility comes not only to those given a chance to be seen, but also to those who give others the chance by looking.