If the drama of the 2020 Olympic Games feels like a distant memory already, have we got some good news for you.
Tonight, the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics begins and will run for the next 12 days. It’s the 16th Summer Paralympic Games which has traditionally followed the Olympic Games since 1960.
During the games, 4,400 athletes from around the world will compete across 22 different sports. This is Australia’s largest overseas Paralympics team, with 179 Aussies competing in 18 different sports and we’re hoping to bring home a medal tally to rival that of our Olympic haul.
It’s going to be another incredible showcase of awesome sporting talent and no doubt a huge boost to everyone doing it tough in lockdown right now.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
What Are the Paralympics?
The Paralympic Games are the portion of the Olympics that caters to athletes with disabilities and are undertaken in both Summer and Winter Games. Many of the same Olympic events are included in the Paralympics, sometimes using specially adapted gear for athletes.
In many ways, the Paralympics are an even more impressive feat of athleticism than the Olympics, as so many of the competitors have had to overcome extreme difficulties, challenges, and setbacks in order to compete.
The name comes from the Greek ‘para’ which means beside or alongside and is meant to capture the idea that the two sporting Games run side-by-side as equal events.
The Paralympics originally started as a sporting competition for British World War II veterans with injuries sustained in combat, the first of which was held in 1948.
In 1960 in Rome, the Paralympics became part of the Olympics and they have been hosted in the same venues as the Olympics since 1988.
The Paralympics are run and organised by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and, since 2001, every country that hosts the Olympics must also host the Paralympics in a joint competition.
The Paralympics raise the profile of athletes with disabilities and people with disabilities in general. Hosting both Games has the added benefit of making each host city more accommodating to people with disabilities as, in most years, athletes travel around the host nation and therefore, need to be catered for.
It brings a lasting legacy of inclusivity and awareness to each host nation as well as global recognition of the incredible talents of people with disabilities.
What Are the Paralympic Sports?
There are 22 Paralympic Sports that will be competed in at the Tokyo 2020 Games this year and these are:
Archery, athletics, badminton, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, football, judo, powerlifting, rowing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis.
Many of the sports are slightly adapted to fit the needs of Paralympians such as football which is played as five-a-side games instead of the full 11.
In addition, the Paralympics has two special sports that aren’t played in the Olympics: goalball and boccia.
Goalball is a team sport specifically designed for people with visual impairments. Participants compete in teams of three and try to throw a ball into the opponent’s goal. The ball is filled with bells so that players can hear the position of the ball and they have to be on or close to the ground while playing.
Boccia (pronounced ‘botch-uh’) is played in wheelchairs by athletes with cerebral palsy. It’s similar to bocce, bowls, petanque, and lawn bowls in that players have to roll their balls as close to a white ‘jack’ as possible.
How Are Paralympians Classified?
As Paralympic Sports are played by people with different disabilities, categorisation is a key part of ensuring that the games are fair.
Prior to competing, each athlete has their disability individually grouped into one of 10 different categories and severity of impairment.
Some sports are only played by people with certain categories of disability and levels of impairment while others host events that are available to everyone
The IPC goes to great lengths to ensure that every athlete competes in events that are right for their ability level so that the least impaired athletes don’t simply win the events they compete in.
When Are the Paralympics Taking Place?
The Paralympics kicks off this evening, Tuesday, August 24, at 9pm AEST with the Opening Ceremony.
The Opening Ceremony runs for three hours and is hosted at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.
The theme of the Opening Ceremony this year is “united by emotion” and, just like the Olympic Games, the Paralympics will be played without spectators.
The Games will run on a full-day schedule until Sunday, September 5, when the Closing Ceremony will be held.
How to Watch the Paralympics
The Paralympic Games are hosted again for free on Channel 7. If you’ve deleted the app from your TV or phone already, now is the time to re-download it.
7Plus is hosting all of the games and you will be able to switch between live sports as they happen.
AEST time is just one hour ahead of Tokyo meaning the Games will all be held at fairly reasonable times for Aussies along the East Coast.