Tokyo Paralympics: 20 incredible facts about the Paralympics

Tokyo Paralympics: 20 incredible facts about the Paralympics
Tokyo Paralympics: 20 incredible facts about the Paralympics
The running track and field at the National Stadium, the main venue for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games (Picture: Bloomberg via Getty)

After being delayed due to the pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics are finally here.

Kicking off on Tuesday, August 24, there are plenty of exciting sporting events in store for viewers, from archery to cycling.

And while you may not be able to watch them from the stadium, you can catch all the excitement from your sofa with Channel 4 and More 4 airing all the action.

So whether you want to impress your friends at the pub or just brush up on your Paralympics knowledge, here are some fun facts about the event.

20 facts you should know about the Paralympics

  • Tokyo is the first city to host the Paralympic Games twice, having held the first one in 1964.
  • The Paralympic Games were founded in 1960 by Sir Ludwig Guttman as rehabilitation exercises for World War II veterans. He was a Jewish doctor who had fled from Nazi Germany to England and opened a spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. While the event initially began with rehabilitative and recreational sport, it later evolved into competitive sport.
  • The first Paralympic Games was held in Rome, Italy, and comprised 400 athletes from 23 countries.
  • It wasn’t until 1976 that the Winter Games in Paralympics began. These were hosted in Sweden.
2018 Paralympic Winter Games
The first Winter Games took place in Sweden (Picture: Lintao Zhang via Getty Images)
  • Contrary to popular belief, the name Paralympics has nothing to do with the merging of the words ‘paralysis’ and ‘Olympics’, but instead stems from the Greek word ‘para’ meaning ‘alongside’ or ‘next to’.
  • The values at the core of the Paralympics are: courage, inspiration, determination and equality.
  • The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics will see the sports Badminton and Taekwondo being introduced for the first time.
  • The Paralympic events Canoeing and Triathlon were only debuted in 2016 at the Rio Paralympics.
Felipe Gomes of Brazil with his guide Jonas de Lima Silva in the Paralympics
Paralympic runners with visual impairments run with a guide runner, attached with a small arm strap (Picture: Bob Martin for OIS/IOC/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Runners at the Paralympics have guide runners who they must finish in front of, and they are tethered to them with a small arm strap.
  • Wheelchair tennis allows for two bounces of the ball, the second of which can be in or out of the court boundaries.
  • This year will see the Bhutan and Guyana making their Paralympic debuts. Bhutan will have three athletes competing, but Guyana will have one.
  • The Beijing 2008 Paralympics spurred on a move to incorporate more accessibility across China, and the country has since introduced wheelchair ramps and lifts at the Great Wall of China as part of the shift.
  • Rwanda was the first country to send a women’s sitting volleyball team to represent Africa. They’ll also be playing at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
  • Paralympic Powerlifting has seen a record 310kg lifted at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. The record was set by the late Siamand Rahman who represented Iran.
  • The sport of Boccia involves two sides both with six balls each – one red, one blue – with the aim of getting the balls closer to the white target ball, known as the ‘jack’, than their opponent. Callipers are used to deduce the distance of the winning ball from the jack. The game does not have an Olympic counterpart.
  • Goalball is another sport that only exists in Paralympics and involves two teams with six players in each. A limit of three players from each side can be on the pitch at the same time and there are two 12-minute halves. Players must roll or bounce the ball down the court, dodging the defenders and heading into the opposing side’s goal, to score a goal.
Goalball being played at the Paralympics
Goalball does not have an Olympic version (Picture: Anthony Edgar for OIS/IOC/AFP via Getty)
  • American Paralympic Swimmer Trischa Zorn is the most decorated Olympian in history with a total of 57 medals including 41 gold medals, nine silver and seven bronze.
  • Wheelchair Fencers use a metal apron to cover their lower halves. This is to ensure touches aren’t registered outside of the target area.
  • The goal for Football 5-a-side has been increased in side since Rio 2016. It is now the size of a hockey goal.
  • The Rio 2016 Paralympics broke a record the number of viewers that tuned in, with a cumulative audience of 4.1 billion.

Let’s hope the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics viewing figures top this.

The Paralympics will be shown live on Channel 4 and More 4 on Tuesday 24 August from 11:30am.


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Author: Surena Chande