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What does ‘para’ in Paralympics stand for and other facts about the Paralympic Games

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Aug 25, 2021 9:46 pm

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympics has officially begun!

Beginning from Aug. 24 until Sept. 5, this year’s Paralympic Games kicked off with a beautiful opening ceremony held at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. Similar to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Paralympics was also delayed for a year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippines has 21 para-athletes representing the country this year, with wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan bearing the national flag during the opening ceremonies. Aside from athletics, the country will also compete in powerlifting and taekwondo.

Ready for the games? Here are a few need-to-know tidbits about the Paralympic Games:

Sports for para-athletes have been around for over 100 years

The first recorded history of sports for people with impairments was in 1888 with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals starting up sports clubs. It became more widely known post-World War II to cater to war veterans and civilians injured during the six-year battle.

It was originally called the Stoke Mandeville Games

The Paralympics’ first moniker came from neurosurgeon Dr. Ludwig Guttman. Guttman had set up the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, a spinal injuries center, in 1944 and introduced ‘rehabilitation sports’ to his recovering patients—most of which were recovering army men and women finished with their service.

On the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Guttman set up his own Paralympic games with 16 injured veterans and played a rousing game of archery.

73 years and 28 more competing sports later, the Paralympics is now led by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and has become one of the biggest sporting events in history.

The Olympics logo has rings, the Paralympics logo has ‘agitos’

With the motto “Spirit in Motion,” the Paralympics symbol is composed of three crescent shapes, or agitos, in the colors blue, red, and green. 

The colors of the agitos were chosen to represent the three most common colors in national flags, while “agitos” is also Latin for “I move”—a fitting phrase for the IPC’s mission to push for progress among para-athletes around the world.

The ‘para’ in Paralympics doesn’t mean “paraplegic”

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean paralyzed either. Per paralympic.org, the “Para” means “parallel” to showcase its adjacent nature with its sister event, the Olympic Games.

“The word ‘Paralympic’ derives from the Greek preposition ‘para’ (beside or alongside) and the word ‘Olympic,’” their site reads. “Its meaning is that Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics and illustrates how the two movements exist side-by-side.”

Banner: A general view shows the opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo by Philip Fong/AFP and China's Xu Haijiao competes in a heat for the men's 100m freestyle (S8) swimming event on Aug. 25, 2021. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP