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The Paralympic Games, modeled on the Olympic Games, is an international sport event for world-class athletes living with a disability. The origin of the Paralympic Games dates back to 1948, in a spinal cord injury unit in the Stoke Mandeville Rehabilitation Hospital, England.
Neurosurgeon Sir Ludwig Guttmann noted that sport competitions were an excellent tool for rehabilitating war veterans who had sustained spinal cord injuries. Guttmann established the Stoke Mandeville National Competitions, which became an annual event.
Four years later, they became an international event when a team from the Netherlands participated in the competition. The international Paralympic Movement finally took off after the Olympic Summer Games in Rome. In 1960, what is considered the first Paralympic Games occurred when 400 wheelchair athletes from 20 countries participated in international events modeled on the Olympic Games.
When Sweden hosted the first Winter Paralympic Games in 1976, other categories of athletes with disabilities competed. That same year, the Summer Paralympic Games in Toronto made Paralympic History by hosting 1600 athletes from 40 countries, including blind and paraplegic athletes, amputees, and people with spinal cord injuries or other types of disabilities.
This competition, which was originally intended to have a therapeutic effect, had now become a high-level sport event.
Starting with the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, and the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, the Paralympic Games used the same facilities as those of the Olympic Games. In 2001, an agreement ensured that the Paralympic Games would always be held the same year as the Olympic Games, be hosted by the host country of that year's Olympic Games, and use the same sites and facilities.
In 1976, a Canadian committee was created mainly to manage funds that had been allocated by the Government for the Games being held in Toronto that same year. In 1981, this committee officially became the Canadian Federation of Sport Organizations for the Disabled (CFSOD).
The CFSOD established a foundation whose mandate was to collect money to enable Canadian athletes to participate in major international events. The Federation, which played a major role in coordinating the international games that took place in Europe, particularly the Paralympic Games of 1980, 1984, and 1988, made Canada an important player in the Paralympic Movement at the international level. In 1993, after several changes were made to the organization, the CFSOD became the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC).
Due to the broad scope of the Paralympic Games, the International Coordinating Committee of World Sports Organizations for the Disabled (ICC) was established in 1982. Seven years later, on the initiative of the President of the CFSOD, Canadian Robert Daniel Steadward, the organization became the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Dr. Steadward, an educator and specialist on sport for persons with a disability, became the first president of this international body, a role that he served until 2001. Canada has attended the Paralympic Games since 1968. Vancouver will host the Paralympic Winter Games in 2010.