Breakthrough for the Paralympics
Wheelchair racers speeding to victory, blind swimmers competing for gold, and disabled skiers pushing their bodies to the limit. These are today's Paralympians. They train hard. They play to win. And in recent years, Canadians have been winning big at the Paralympic Games. The Paralympics began as a postwar sporting event designed to get injured ex-soldiers moving again. But by the 1980s the Games had evolved into an elite international competition.
In this radio clip, The Inside Track talks to Canadian gold medal winner Jamie Bone during the 1988 Games in Seoul. Bone, a wheelchair sprinter, is extremely impressed with the enthusiasm of the Korean fans. "They seem to really enjoy the events and it's fantastic," he says.
• Canada's Dr. Robert Steadward, former president of the International Paralympic Committee and co-author of Paralympics: Where Heroes Come, dubbed the Seoul Paralympics "The Sophisticated Games." From transportation and security, to wheelchair accessibility at the venues and accommodations, these Games were considered remarkably well organized compared to past Games.
• To avoid the problem of half-empty stadiums that had plagued some earlier games, Seoul's Paralympic organizing committee gave free tickets to various community groups. Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, church groups, college groups and amateur sporting groups filled the stands. And Korean school children were organized into cheering groups, with each group cheering for a different country.
• A higher standard of competition was also established in 1988. "That's when we moved from a medical model to a sport model," said Dr. Steadward in a 2003 CBC report.
• The Seoul organizing committee weeded out a number of the events involving severely disabled athletes — typically events with fewer than three athletes registered. This last-minute decision disappointed some competing countries. But according to Steadward, it was "a symptom of the change these games represented: the Paralympic athlete must be the elite athlete."
• Because of the changes in 1988, Steadward sees these Games as the beginning of the "modern" Paralympics. In a 2001 Globe and Mail article, he said: "The modern Olympics traces its origins back to 1896; well, I think the modern Paralympics started in 1988 because that's when we started to have a solid relationship with the International Olympic Committee and they took more of an interest in hosting the Paralympics. And for the first time our athletes started to be treated like athletes rather than patients."
• There were 17 events on the program in 1988: lawn bowling, power lifting, archery, athletics (track and field), basketball, cycling, fencing, football, goalball, Judo, shooting, snooker, swimming, volleyball, table tennis, wheelchair tennis (a demonstration sport) and boccia. Each of these sports had its own classifications in terms of disability type and degree.
• The number of disability categories had grown to five by 1988: spinal cord injuries, amputees, visually impaired, cerebral palsy and les autres, defined as "all motor disabilities except amputees, medullar lesions and cerebral palsy." Such motor disabilities could include muscular dystrophy, severe cases of multiple sclerosis, or paralysis of arms or legs.
• The following year, 1989, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was formed. This brought together six international organizations representing disabled sport, including the International Blind Sports Association, the Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association, and the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation. Canada's Dr. Robert Steadward became the founding president. He was later often referred to as "the Juan Antonio Samaranch of the Paralympics."
• In 2001, the IPC signed a historic cooperation agreement with the IOC. This agreement cemented the relationship between the two committees. Among other things, it officially stipulated that the Paralympics would always follow the Olympics, and that the two events would take place in the same city using the same venues. Although this had been the practice since the 1988 Games in Seoul, the 2001 agreement made it official.
Program: The Inside Track
Broadcast Date: Oct. 22, 1988
Guest(s): Jamie Bone
Host: Mark Lee
Last updated: February 13, 2012
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
All Clips from this Topic
Gray grills Jackson on politics at the '76 disabled Olympiad
Following on the heels of Montreal's 1976 Olympics, another Olympiad t...
The father of the Paralympic movement explains why he founded an Olymp...
Front Page Challenge panellists are impressed by one-legged Canadian h...
A Canadian Paralympian describes the uplifting mood in Seoul at the 19...
A look at the sport 'goalball', played exclusively by visually impaire...
The Inside Track asks why some of Canada's Paralympians are not taken ...
World champion swimmer Marie Claire Ross is blind, and has managed to ...
Stefan Putnam is a member of the Canadian boccia team which will soon ...
1997 Special Olympics explained
Clearing up the confusion between the Games.
A Paralympic discussion with Robert Steadward, founding president of ...
The paralympics prove to be a hit with the crowds in Nagano.
Interview with Collette Bourgonje, Canadian winter Paralympian in Naga...
CBC looks at the technological advances in Paralympic equipment over t...
A legally blind cyclist teams up with a sighted one in the Paralympic ...
Wheelchair racers speeding to victory, blind swimmers competing for go...