The focus of the world has been on Beijing during August 2008 with the Olympic games showcasing the fastest athletes, the strongest swimmers, the smoothest divers and the best and greatest in any of the sports competing for glory.

But not all people, even if they are good athletes, can compete in the Olympics due to disability. The next Paralympic Games will be held in Beijing after the August Olympics. But did you know there is also a Deaflympic?

The Deaflympics started in 1924 and is the fastest growing multiple sport event in the world. It is a place where deaf people come together and celebrate their differences and compete for gold on an equal playing field against other deaf athletes. In 2009 more than 3000 athletes from over 65 countries will compete. The Deaflympics comes under the umbrella of the IOC but are run by Deaf people for the Deaf.

The biggest difference between the Deaflympics and the Olympics and other main sporting events is the competitors cannot start a race with a bell, whistle, bullhorn or cannot hear a referee call the play. Officials and referees are also deaf and this helps them can communicate with the athletes on the field.

Swimmers of course are totally deaf in the pool because they cannot wear their aids and implant processors so how do they hear the starting gun? In fact they don’t. The swimming pool has a light in each lane. This starting device signals them when to jump. For instance if the light is green it means ‘take your marks’. When it flashes white it means ‘go’. The pool also has a false start rope suspended over it so if they jump too soon they will hit the rope. In Athletics there is also a similar lighting system while in team sports the referee carries a flag to indicate a whistle has been blown. It is up to the Deaf player to be aware of the type of signals and react to these gestures on field.

For some time trials, athletes where a timing chip. Whenever they pass the marks, the chip lets them know their time and of course records the finish time.

Should people wear an aid or Cochlear Implant processor while playing sports? Playing sport for someone who needs a hearing aid (cochlear implant or baha etc) can be quite difficult. Any hearing device must be held firmly in place to avoid injury, loss or damage. Even then the person may still not hear umpire line calls and must be aware of the refereeing system for their sport. Obviously it is up to the individual. If a player does decide to wear their device then they must take the necessary precautions for protection of both themselves and their device.

The Deaflympic games are more than simply athletics and sports. They provide an arena for Deaf people to meet, communicate, network and socialise with other Deaf people. This social interaction is seen as a vital part of the games.

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