By Rachel Baker for spokesman.com
The Summer Paralympic Games are set to kick off on Aug. 25 and will bring athletes from all over the world to highlight their achievements and talents as they compete with various disabilities.
Before the Paralympic Games were organized, only a few disabled athletes had the chance to compete at the Olympic level. In 1948, the London Summer Olympics created the first sports competition for disabled athletes, hosted by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish-German who had fled Nazi Germany. Called the 1948 International Wheelchair Games, the event was specifically created for British World War II veterans who had suffered spinal cord injuries in battle.
The goal was to expand this event into an elite sports competition that would be equivalent to the Olympic Games but for disabled athletes. The competition was next held in 1952. This time it included Dutch and Israeli veterans alongside British veterans, a change that brought the competition to the international level and served as the precursor to the Paralympic Games.
The first official Paralympic Games were held in 1960 in Rome. It became the first competition open to athletes who weren’t veterans, but it was also still only open to wheelchair-bound athletes . In 1975, the competition opened to those with other disabilities, featuring 1,600 athletes from 40 countries.
The 1988 Paralympic Games were the first to be held in the same city (Seoul) and use the same facilities as that year’s Olympic Games. This helped set a precedent for subsequent years and in 2001, an agreement was reached to create a partnership between the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee.
The Paralympic Games are a great opportunity to talk to children about disabilities while also highlighting disabled athletes’ abilities. Here are a few books you can read as a family to spark discussion with young learners .
“Lucas at the Paralympics,” written by Igor Plohl and Urska Stropnik Sonc – Lucas and Eddie are best friends, and they both share the experience of having a physical disability. Together they attend the Paralympic Games to cheer on disabled athletes in a variety of events, such as running, wheelchair fencing, swimming, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, para-archery and more. For readers ages 4-8.
“What Are the Paralympic Games?” written by Gail Herman and illustrated by Andrew Thomson – Learn more about the history of the Paralympics and how they grew over time to attract athletes from all over the world. For readers ages 8-12.
“A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games,” written by Lori Alexander and illustrated by Allan Drummond – The story of how Ludwig Guttmann aspired to create competitions for disabled athletes to highlight how movement is an important aspect of a quality-filled life.
“Susan Laughs,” written by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross – Susan is a young girl who keeps busy swimming with her father, working hard in school, playing with her friend and riding her favorite horse. It isn’t until the end of the story that readers learn that Susan uses a wheelchair, allowing them to reflect on all the things Susan can do instead of her limitations.
“Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah,” written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls – The amazing story of Emmanuel, who became a cyclist and rode 400 miles across Ghana to create a shining example of all he could do, even though he was born with one deformed leg. Emmanuel’s message is that disability does not mean inability.
Read more here.
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