While the hoopla is fading from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games are just winding up. The opening ceremony kicks off the official start on March 12th at 6pm in the evening, Pacific Time. While these games may not be as well known, they are truly awe inspiring.
The idea originally sprang from the mind of Sir Ludwig Guttmann in 1948. He decided to organize a sports competition for World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries. While it was likely a revolutionary idea at the time, in just four short years, participants traveled to England from the Netherlands to compete.
These events gained momentum and in 1960 the Paralympics took place in Rome, Italy. Sixteen years later more events and disability groups were added. The event name was officially changed to the Paralympic Winter Games for the inaugural meet in Sweden.
A relatively recent agreement between the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee assures that every venue that hosts the Olympic Games, will also host the Paralympic Games. This is a great idea as it gives the host city the chance to utilize many of the facilities that it prepared for the Olympics. No city wants those new venues, athlete quarters, food halls or other vendors to be without business for long. Nor do the Paralympic athletes want to have to search for a separate venue when new facilities are up and running, so it is a perfect fit for both groups.
The Paralympic athletes train for their sports as much as the fully able body athletes do. However, they have the added challenge of dealing with their disability on a daily basis. Despite the obstacles they must overcome regularly, they are still amazing athletes.
The categories of events are as varied as the disability types. For example, the Biathlon events are separated into distances, and the subcategories include; sitting, standing, visually impaired and of course menís and womenís divisions. Other disciplines include skiing, curling, ice sledge hockey, and cross country skiing. All of those also have subcategories for the different disabilities.
When the closing ceremonies take place on March 21st, chances are the world at large will not be watching, but I think they should. We have a lot to learn from these tremendous athletes, who do so much with whatever they can. They struggle daily and rise above it more than any of us can ever imagine. The life lessons we can learn from them are too many to count.