WorldWiseAthlete.com | Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2016

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Athletes with Disabilities

Athletes with disabilities abroad can also be the victims of prejudice and stereotyping. The disabled report being stared at, ignored, un–assisted, and/ or talked down to more frequently abroad than they tend to be in your native country. In many countries, there are no standards or requirements for providing access for the disabled. Wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking spaces, Braille signs, and other aides may be non–existent in parts of the host country, especially rural areas. In addition to a lack of services provided to the physically disabled, there may also be a lack of services provided to those with a learning disability, those with a psychological or emotional need, or those who are mentally challenged. If you need to make special arrangements abroad, it is a good idea to inquire far in advance. Your program's staff abroad may require some time in order to facilitate your needs.

Taken from StudentsAbroad.com – Study Abroad Student Handbooks, Special Issues

The Paralympic Games

The IOC has not only considered disabilities a special issue, they also created a special part of the Olympics - the Paralympic games. The word "Paralympic" derives from the Greek preposition "para" (beside or alongside) and the word "Olympic". Its meaning is that Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics and illustrates how the two movements exist side-by-side.

In 1944, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann opened a spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain, and in time, rehabilitation sport evolved to recreational sport and then to competitive sport. Then on July 29, 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes which he named the Stoke Mandeville Games. The Games featured 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in the Archery competition. In 1952, Dutch ex–servicemen joined the Movement and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were founded. These Games would soon become known as the Paralympic Games.

The first official Paralympic Games took place in Rome, Italy in 1960 and featured 400 athletes from 23 countries. Since then, the Games have been held every four years, like the Olympics. The inaugural Paralympic Winter Games were held in Sweden in 1976 and have also taken place every four years. Beginning with the 1998 Summer Games of Seoul, Korea and the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, the Games have also taken part in the same cities and venues as the Olympics due to an agreement between the IPC and IOC.

Finally, on September 22, 1989, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was founded as an international non-profit organization in Dusseldorf, Germany to act as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement.

Taken from Paralympic.org – History of the Paralympics

The Special Olympics

Sports competitions, such at the Special Olympics, have also been developed as opportunities for athletes with mental disabilities.

In the early 1960s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver witnessed how unjustly and unfairly people with intellectual disabilities were treated. She also saw that many children with special needs didn't even have a place to play. Eunice Kenned Shriver was motivated to take action and, soon, her vision began to take shape. She began by holding a summer day camp for young people with intellectual disabilities in her backyard. The goal was to learn what these children could do in sports and other activities – instead of dwelling on what they could not do. This vision eventually grew into the global Special Olympics movement.

"The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. " – SpecialOlympics.org – Mission

In July, 1926, the first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The Games featured 1,000 people with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada in track and field and swimming competition. By the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Athens, Greece, the Games involved nearly 7,000 athletes from 170 countries.

Adapted from SpecialOlympics.org – History of the Special Olympics

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