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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 13:11 GMT

Paralympics down the decades

By BBC Sport Online's Mike Burnett

In a relatively short time, the Paralympic Winter Games has established itself as a major event on the Olympic calendar.

More than 550 athletes from 35 countries will travell to Salt Lake City for the eighth Games since the evenr first began in 1976.

Past Games
1976 - Ornskoldsvik, Sweden 250 athletes from 14 countries

1980 - Geilo,
350 athletes,18 countries

1984 - Innsbruck, Austria 350 athletes, 22 countries

1988 - Innsbruck, Austria 397 athletes, 22 countries

1992 - Albertville, France 475 athletes, 24 countries

1994 - Lillehammer, Norway 400 athletes, 31 countries

1998 - Nagano,
571 athletes, 32 countries

The winter event may only be 26 years old - a fledgling by Olympic standards - but the concept is much older.

The Paralympic movement began as the dream of English neurosurgeon Sir Ludwig Guttman.

In 1948, he organized a sports competition to help the rehabilitation of injured World War Two veterans in Stoke Mandeville, England.

Competitors from Holland joined the games four years later and the international Paralympic movement was born.

An Olympic-style games was first held in Rome in 1960 with 400 athletes representing 23 countries.

But it was not until 16 years later that its winter counterpart was put together at Ornskoldsvik in Sweden.

Over 250 athletes from 14 countries took part in the inaugural event and the competition has continued to expand since then.

The 1988 Paralympic Summer Games in Seoul, Korea, is often considered the beginning of the modern Paralympics, shifting from a "rehab" model to one of sport and athletic competition.

Since Seoul, and Albertville in 1992, they have also taken place at the same venues as the Olympics.

This process was helped by the creation of the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) in 1989.

The organisation, based in Bonn, Germany, co-ordinates and develops the modern Paralympic Games.

Under the voluntary presidency ofDr Robert Steadward, the IPC's duties include awarding the Paralympics to a host city and determining the sports, disciplines and events.

Many people make the common assumption that "Paralympic" comes from the word "Paraplegic".

But "Para" is a Latin prefix for "with", making the words' literal translation "With Olympic".

The Paralympic Games have been parallel to the Olympic Games since their inception.

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