Excitement builds as the date fast approaches for any Olympic event. The drama of watching highly trained and determined individuals strive for greater physical achievement is riveting We understand that the road to the Olympics has meant great discipline and sacrifice for these athletes. But for each one of them it has been worth it to participate with the best in the world.
And when one considers the normal challenges involved it becomes even more compelling when the participants are faced with certain physical disabilities. This year Beijing will also be hosting the Paralympic Games from September 6th to the 17th. A dynamic event that showcases the Olympic spirit with an even more poignant dimension.
Olympic style games for athletes with disabilities were first initiated in Rome in 1960. At that time the number of athletes competing were around 400 and coming from 23 countries. Over time the events grew. Today the Paralympics feature elite athletes from 6 different disability groups. In Athens in 2004 the event had grown to 3,806 entrants from 136 countries.
They always take place in the same year as the Olympics and since 1988 they are featured at the same venues. In June of 2001 the IOC and the IPC signed an agreement that ensures that this practice will continue and that any city hosting the Olympics agrees to host the Paralympics as well.
The only other sports organization that is authorized by the IOC to use the word Olympics in its title is the International Special Olympic Games. The idea for the Special Olympics was started in 1968 by Anne Mcglone Burke who was a physical education teacher in Chicago. Her plan was to create a venue whereby individuals with intellectual disabilities could grow in self-confidence, social skills and achieve a sense of accomplishment.
The highest profiled supporter of the Special Olympics is Eunice Shriver. With her unflagging efforts the Special Olympics has expanded to more than 180 countries and includes nearly 2 and a half million athletes in the program of training and competition. Although special competitive events are held yearly – a Special Olympics World Games is held every four years as well. The Special Olympics oath reads – “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.” Their next summer games will be held in 2011.