We explain the Paralympic Games’ origin, categories and characteristics. In addition, differences with the Olympic Games.
What are the Paralympic Games?
The Paralympic Games are the world’s largest international competition for athletes with disabilities. Like the ordinary Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games occur every four years in different cities worldwide and bring together sports delegations of different nationalities to compete in various disciplines over a couple of weeks.
These international competitions are organized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), a body based in Bonn, Germany, which cooperates closely with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The details of the ceremony, the execution of the games and other essential information are collected in the Paralympic Charter.
For their part, Paralympic athletes are sports professionals grouped into ten categories according to their specific disability, called “disability layers”:
Muscle power layer. It refers to different muscle weakness or slowness levels, either in the whole body or in parts, such as polio, spina bifida or spinal cord injuries.
Passive range of motion layer. Refers to congenital conditions of systematically reduced movement in one or more body joints.
A layer of loss or deficiency of a member. It refers to the lack or dysfunction of any body limb, as in the case of amputations and malformations.
Short cloak. Refers to height deficiency due to musculoskeletal deficit, dwarfism, or other similar conditions.
Hypertonic layer. It refers to the abnormal tensioning of the body’s musculature, which prevents its natural relaxation due to congenital conditions such as cerebral palsy.
Ataxia Cloak. It refers to the loss of muscle coordination in cases of cerebral palsy, Friedreich’s ataxia, and other similar conditions.
Athetosis layer. It refers to conditions of loss of body balance, involuntary muscle movements and problems maintaining a symmetrical posture, a consequence of diseases such as cerebral palsy or choreoathetosis.
Cloak of visual handicap. It refers to the total or partial loss of vision, which is why athletes in this category compete together with specialized guides.
Cloak of Intellectual Disadvantage. It refers to conditions of high or severe cognitive or intellectual disability.
Like the regular Olympics, the Paralympic Games reward its most outstanding athletes with gold, silver and bronze medals and organize them according to a complex classification system that considers the degree of disability and the effort put in.