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Seven things you didn’t know about the Paralympics


IF you thought Rio 2016 was over, think again – it’s only half-time.

The second slice of action gets under way tomorrow with the opening ceremony of the 2016 Paralympics. So while we wait for the action to begin, here are some surprisingly obvious things you probably didn’t know…

1. This is the Paralympic logo.

The Paralympic Symbol on display in London
Paralympic logo (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

You probably know all about the five Olympic rings, but the Paralympic symbol is not quite so familiar. The three shapes are agitos – from the Latin for “I move” – and they encircle a central point, symbolising motion. They are red, blue and green because they’re the three colours most widely used in national flags around the world.

2. The ‘para’ bit means parallel.

The idea is that the Paralympics forms a parallel games to the Olympics. Fittingly, it comes from the Greek “para” meaning beside.

3. The Paralympics hasn’t been going all that long.

Kathleen Comley taking part in the Paralympics
Britain’s Kathleen Comley was one of 400 athletes at the first Paralympics in 1960 (AP)

The first Paralympic Games took place in Rome in 1960, and only 23 nations took part. The first Winter Paralympics followed in 1976. The origins, though, go back a little further than that. Speaking of which…

4. We might never have had the Paralympics without the Second World War.

A statue of Ludwig Guttmann
Sir Ludwig Guttmann, who lives on in the form of this life-sized statue at Stoke Mandeville hospital, was known as “Poppa” (Chris Radburn/PA)

While the first Paralympics was in 1960, the event grew out of the Stoke Mandeville Games. That event was first organised by a German doctor, Ludwig Guttmann, living in the UK, who used sport to help rehabilitate soldiers with spinal injuries after the Second World War.

The first Stoke Mandeville Games was in 1948 – and the first international version, which also included Dutch athletes, was four years later. The Paralympics eventually grew out of Dr Guttmann’s games.

5. And that explains one of the London 2012 mascots.

London 2012 mascots Wenlock and Mandeville
Mandeville’s the one on the left (Johnny Green/PA)

Remember those lovable and frankly slight weird mascots from London 2012, Wenlock and Mandeville? Now you know where Mandeville’s name came from.

6. It’s the second largest multi-sport event in the world.

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics
And the opening ceremonies are every bit as spectacular (Anthony Devlin/PA)

The Paralympics are behind only the Olympics.

7. The most successful Paralympian makes Michael Phelps look like an underachiever.

Trischa Zorn training at the Paralympics
Trischa Zorn shows Michael Phelps how it’s done (Katsumi Kasahara/AP)

US swimmer Phelps probably thinks he’s pretty damn clever with his 23 Olympic gold medals, three silver and two bronze. And we are prepared to concede that’s a pretty decent haul.

But it looks a little piddly and pathetic next to the 55 medals (44 gold) amassed by compatriot Trischa Zorn at the Paralympics. Zorn, also a swimmer, bagged her gongs in a career that spanned seven games between 1980 and 2004. So Phelps still has time to catch up.


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