Let the Games Begin

The 2012 Paralympic Games start August 29

The world’s largest event for athletes with disabilities takes place this year, and a record number of people will be watching it, in person or electronically. Between August 29 and September 9, the best athletes with disabilities will be in London for the 2012 Paralympic Games. 

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced plans to provide the most comprehensive online coverage ever for a Paralympics, including broadcasting 580 hours of live sport from London 2012 via www.paralympic.org during the Games.

During each day of London 2012, the IPC website will broadcast four streams of uninterrupted live coverage from the Paralympics with English commentary, including daily coverage of swimming, wheelchair basketball and athletics; a fourth channel will cover a range of sports. A fifth channel will broadcast a mixture of sports with Spanish commentary.

In addition more than 1,000 hours of sporting action from a number of venues, including individual races and matches, will be available on paralympic.org as video on demand during the course of the Games. Two daily five-minute news bulletins will be produced in English and Spanish.

Here is your guide to the schedule of events, as well as brief descriptions of the sports. An army of spectators will cheer competitors in the following:

• Archery: Aug. 30–Sept. 5

In Paralympic archery competition, men and women compete in individual and team events. There are nine gold medals to be contested in a series of different classes, based on the type of bow used and whether athletes participate standing or sitting.

The athletes fire their arrows from a distance of 70m, with the aim of hitting as close to the center of the five-ringed target as possible.

China, the hosts of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, won the most medals in Paralympic Archery, including two gold, three silver and two bronze.

• Athletics: Aug. 31–­Sept. 9

In addition to track and field events, Paralympic athletics includes road events, which will take place beyond the Olympic Stadium, on the streets of London.

More than 1,000 competitors will battle for 166 gold medals in a series of individual and team contests in running, walking, throwing and jumping.

• Boccia: Sept. 2–8

Boccia is unique to the Paralympic Games, solely for athletes with motor-skill disabilities. Similar to Italian bocce or French boules, Boccia is played by individual competitors, pairs, or teams. Each team, pair or individual throws six balls at the target ball (the “jack”), with the closest balls to the target winning the “end.” The game is played over a series of four ends. Brazil and South Korea each won two of the seven gold medals available at the 2008 Paralympic Games, with Portugal, Great Britain and Hong Kong winning the rest.

• Cycling, Road: Sept. 5–8

• Cycling, Track: Aug. 30–Sept. 2

Competitors use two-wheeled bicycles, tandems, tricycles and handcycles in different disability classes during the track cycling events at the Paralympic Games. The sport is split into time trials, pursuits and sprint races in separate men's and women's competitions, with 20 gold medals up for grabs. Great Britain dominated the cycling events at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, winning 16 gold medals, including 11 for track cycling.

• Equestrian: Aug. 30–Sept. 4

In a series of 11 dressage events, riders compete in different classes based on their disability. The individual and team events encompass routines to music (freestyle test) and performances of certain required skills (championship test). The competition is judged on scores given for each routine, with the team medals decided on the combined scores of the individual participants. Great Britain led the way in Equestrian at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, winning five golds.

• Football 5-a-side: Aug. 31–Sept. 8

This is one of two football events at the Paralympic Games, the other being 7-a-side football, for players with cerebral palsy.

The four outfield players must be blind or partially sighted with each player wearing blindfolds. The goalkeepers can be either fully or partially sighted, while a guide is positioned behind the goal to tell the players the best way to aim.

The 5-a-side Football competition was added to the Paralympic schedule in 2004, with Brazil winning gold. Brazil secured their second successive gold in the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008, with China taking silver, and Argentina bronze.

• Football 7-a-side: Sept. 1–9

See above.

• Goalball: Aug. 30–Sept. 7

Goalball was added to the Paralympic schedule in 1980 after being a demonstration event at the previous Games. Teams of three visually impaired athletes take part in this skillful game.

The aim is to throw the ball, which can be located by a bell, into the opposing net, while the defending team members try to block the attempt with their bodies. Partially sighted players are allowed to compete alongside blind players, but they have to wear blindfolds so the competition is equal.

Goalball at the 2008 Paralympic Games was hotly contested in the men's and women's events. China edged out Lithuania in the men's competition, coming from behind to win gold in the last seconds of the final. In the women's event, the United States beat the hosts in another tight contest.

• Judo: Aug. 31–Sept. 1

The only martial art in the Paralympic schedule, judo is a test of strength, skill and reactions. All Paralympic judo competitors have visual impairments, and the discipline is split into different weight classes for men and women. Judo was first included in the 1988 Paralympic Games, with the women's event added in 2004.

• Powerlifting: Aug. 30–Sept. 5

Athletes with differing disabilities can participate; competition is only defined by bodyweight. Powerlifters lift weights in defined increments – but instead of standing, they lie on a bench. Men and women compete in different weight categories, with 20 gold medals available. Egypt and China have been winners in powerlifting at the Paralympic Games in recent years.

• Rowing: Aug. 31–Sept. 2

Rowing is the newest Paralympic sport, having debuted at the 2008 Beijing Games. Boats compete against each other over a 1000m course. The sport is also known as 'adaptive' rowing because the equipment is altered so disabled athletes can take part. The sport is open to anyone with spinal-cord injury, cerebral palsy, lower-limb amputations and visual impairments.

The fastest two boats from each qualifying heat progress to the final.

• Sailing: Sept. 1–6

Sailing was a demonstration sport at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics and became a full medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. It is open to athletes with amputation, cerebral palsy, blindness and visual impairment, spinal injuries and les autres.

Paralympic sailing has three categories: Single-person Keelboat (2.4mR), Two-person Keelboat (SKUD18), and Three-person Keelboat (Sonar). A scoring system assigns points between 1 and 7 based on level of disability. Not more than 14 crew points are allowed in a boat at any one time.

• Shooting: Aug. 30–Sept. 6

The sport is divided into separate disciplines depending on the type of gun used – these include air pistol, air rifle and free rifle (men and mixed) / sport rifle (women and mixed).

There are also separate contests depending on the disability of the competitor – who sits, stands or kneels – with the 10 concentric-ringed target varying accordingly at 10m, 25m and 50m.

At the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, South Korea was the most successful with nine medals, including four golds.

• Sitting Volleyball: Aug. 30–Sept. 8

Sitting volleyball is played on a court with a net, with teams trying to hit the ball over to their opponents' side. In this sport the court is smaller and the net is lower, allowing seated athletes to move the ball more freely and quickly.

During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, teams of six players will compete for two gold medals. In the men's competition, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina have met in the final of the past three Paralympic Games. In 2008, Iran took the crown back from the Balkan country, which won in 2004. The women's event has been part of the Paralympics since 2004. In 2008, China followed up their 2004 victory with another gold after beating the United States in the final.

• Swimming: Aug. 30–Sept. 8

As in the Olympic Games, the Paralympic swimming medal events include four strokes: freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke. In relay competitions and individual medley, all four strokes are used. Paralympic swimming competitors are classified according to their disability –physical, visual or intellectual – and their ability to perform each stroke.

Swimming, one of the first Paralympic sports, has increased in size, and 600 athletes now compete for 148 gold medals.

• Table Tennis: Aug. 30–Sept. 8

The London 2012 Paralympic Table Tennis competition is split into different classes, according to disability. The athletes play from a wheelchair or standing, depending on their classification.

Athletes — 271 of them — are vying for 29 Paralympic gold medals.

After a clean sweep in the men's and women's singles at the 2008 Olympic Games (winning gold, silver and bronze in both events), China won 13 gold medals in the 2008 Paralympic Table Tennis event.

• Wheelchair Basketball: Aug. 30–Sept. 8

Wheelchair basketball allows athletes of varying disability to compete on the world's biggest stage. Each athlete is given a separate point value depending on his/her disability; those with more severe disabilities are given more points for a score.

At the 2008 Paralympics, the United States continued to dominate with gold in the men's and women's competitions. The U.S. also picked up a gold medal in women's wheelchair basketball competition.

• Wheelchair Fencing: Sept. 4–8

Wheelchair fencing appeared at the first Paralympic Games in 1960, making it one of the oldest events of the tournament. Split into three strands, based on the different weapons used, the bouts are determined by the best of nine hits – or in later competition, 15 hits. Athletes are classified according to disability, and they compete against opponents in the same class.

The foil is the most common weapon used in the sport, and was originally used as a training weapon. Points can be scored by targeting the bib of the opponent. The sabre differs from the foil and epée in that points can also be scored with the side of the blade. The target is any part of the competitor's body above the waist, except the hands. The epée has a stiffer blade and, in the Paralympic competition, points can only be scored by touching any part of the competitor's body above the waist.

• Wheelchair Tennis: Sept. 1–8

The London 2012 Wheelchair Tennis competition will consist of men and women competing across six medal events:

Men's and Women's Singles

Men's and Women's Doubles

Quad Singles

Quad Doubles

The sport follows similar rules to tennis, with one main difference: the ball can bounce twice, and only the first bounce must be within the boundaries of the court. All matches are played over the best of three sets.

• Wheelchair Rugby: Sept. 5–9

Played on a basketball court, with a ball similar to a volleyball, wheelchair rugby has mixed teams of four players, each with disability affecting their arms and legs. The teams compete for just one gold medal. As in wheelchair basketball, competitors are given a classification points score depending on their degree of disability.

Wheelchair rugby became a medal sport at the Paralympic Games in Sydney 2000, with the United States winning the first gold medal.

The highlight of any athlete’s career is winning a gold medal. At London 2012, five hundred (500) will be handed out to the world’s best.

For more information and to view some great videos of these sports, go to visitlondon.com/events/detail/8823154-london-2012-paralympic-games.


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