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Questions and Answers


Are there any tickets left? Why are there two football events? What is Murderball? Why are there 15 different 100m finals? Can wheelchair racers complete the marathon quicker than runners?! We answer all the questions you might have about the London Paralympics...

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Are there any Paralympics tickets left?


The organisers believe this could be the first sellout Paralympic Games in its 52-year history, with the previous record of 1.8 million tickets at Beijing in 2008 already surpassed. At the time of writing (in the week after the Olympics) there were still some tickets available – primarily for sports outside the Olympic Park, such as those at the ExCeL Centre – but they are going fast. Following the outright success of the Olympics, there was a surge of sales with 600,000 Paralympic tickets being snapped up in under a week. There are a total of 2.5m tickets issued for the Games, with sales reaching 2.1m as of Tuesday 15th August. One popular ticket option (which wasn't available during the Olympics) is a ground pass which allows fans into whole zone (such as the Olympic Park or ExCeL Centre) and access to any venue with empty seats. More tickets are set to be released for most events so keep trying at


What's the Paralympic day pass that everyone's talking about?


One popular ticket option for the Paralympics which wasn't available during the Olympics is a day pass. These tickets give you entry to a whole zone – the Olympic Park, the Royal Artillery Barracks or ExCeL – for a whole day and allows spectators to see a variety of sports, depending on availability. There are some caveats, mind. For an Olympic Park day pass, you can see any sport in the Park – but not Athletics at the Olympic Stadium, Cycling at the Velodrome or Swimming at the Aquatics Centre. There are also some restrictions about seeing finals of other sports – so best check first. A day pass for the Royal Artillery Barracks allows you to see both Archery and Shooting events, while the ExCeL passes give you access to all six of the sports going on in the venue – with the exception of the Sitting Volleyball finals.


Why are there 15 different 100m finals?


To allow athletes of varying disability to compete in the Paralympics, there are various classifications across different sports. In athletics there are five, with range of sub-divisions (up to four) in each band. This means, in short, that there are 15 men's 100m finals and 16 women's 100m finals. Parallels can be made to weight categories in boxing: Wladimir Klitschko and Floyd Mayweather are both champions of their respective weight categories – but you would never expect them to face each other in the ring. In the same way, you will never see a Paralympic athlete like Oscar Pistorius racing against a wheelchair sprinter like Dave Weir. For more information on the classifications for each sport please consult our Paralympic Sport FAQs article.


Can Paralympians also compete in the Olympics?


Yes. In fact, it has happened this year with Oscar Pistorius and blind South Korean archer, Im Dong-hyun. The double amputee South African 'Blade Runner' took part in the men's 400m event at the Olympics, taking second place in his heat before finishing eighth in the second semi-final. Pistorius ran again in the 4x400m relay final in which South Africa finished eighth out of a field of nine – but while setting a national record. Pistorius will take part in the T44 100m race and the T42-T46 4x100m relay in the London 2012 Paralympics. Blind South Korean archer, Im Dong-hyun, broke his own 72-arrow mark of 696 by three points and was also part of a record breaking team shoot in men's archery at Lord's. Archery has been a popular sport in which boundaries have been crossed. In 1984, Neroli Fairhall, a paraplegic archer from New Zealand was the first Paralympian to take part in the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and Italian archer Paola Fantato, the most successful Paralympic archer of all time, also competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta becoming the first person to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year. The first disabled athlete to participate in the Games was American gymnast George Eyser who won several medals in the 1904 St. Louis Games, the third modern day Olympics, with a prosthetic leg. Further examples include American Marla Runyan in athletics, Poland's Natalia Partyka in table tennis, and Natalie du Toit in swimming. South African Du Toit competed at the age of 14 in the 1998 Commonwealth Games before undergoing a lower leg amputation three years later as a result of a motorbike accident. She has since become one of the most successful current Paralympic swimmers.


When were the first Paralympic Games?


This is a tricky one, so bear with us. Organised by the pioneering neurologist Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the Stoke Mandeville Games were a precursor to the modern Paralympics - which is how the Paralympic mascot got his name. These games, also known as the 1948 International Wheelchair Games, took place at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire at the same time as the 1948 Olympics in London. The event was devised for British spinal-injured World War II veterans and, four years later, included Dutch veterans. In 1960, Rome became the first host city to use its Olympic venues for the Paralympic Games, although the term 'Paralympics' was not made official until the 1988 Games in South Korea. Indeed, the Rome 'Paralympics' were originally known as the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games.


How many events were in the first Paralympics?


The first official Paralympics (although they were still not called the 'Paralympics' - see previous question), in Rome in 1960, featured eight sports (far fewer than today's 21): archery, athletics, snooker, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing and darchery (a combination of darts and archery). Italy won the most medals, beating Britain by a tally of 80 to 55.


Where does the name Paralympics come from?


The Paralympic Games title was first widely used for the 1988 Games in South Korea. It combined the Greek preposition 'para' with the word 'Olympic', emphasising how the two Games work in parallel to each other. It's tempting to make the link to the word 'paraplegic' - but although the Stoke Mandeville Games (the precursor to the Paralympics) only featured war veterans with spinal injuries, the term 'Paralympics' is not related to the word 'paraplegic'.


Why is Wheelchair Rugby called 'Murderball'?


When Wheelchair Rugby – or 'Quad Rugby' – was first being developed back in the late 70s in Canada it was originally called 'Murderball' because of its aggressive, full-contact nature. Sometimes players collide at such speed that wheelchairs can be tipped, causing the athletes to land directly on their heads. Limbs – including necks – have been broken and cuts are commonplace, especially when players trap their fingers between their chair and that of an opponent. Incorporating elements of basketball, handball and ice hockey, Wheelchair Rugby first appeared in the 1996 Paralympics. In 2005 an American documentary film about the rivalry between the US and Canadian teams leading up to the 2004 Paralympics was released – it was called ... Murderball.


Do the athletes who take part in the Wheelchair-specific sports have to use a wheelchair in their daily lives?


No, not necessarily – some athletes may be ambulant, as long as they fit stringent selection criteria. Wheelchair Basketball, for instance, is open to players who cannot run, jump or pivot – but not all of the players are regular wheelchair-users. Wheelchair Fencing is open to those with spinal injuries, amputations or cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities – so in theory, not all athletes have to be daily wheelchair-users. Wheelchair Rugby and Wheelchair Tennis are played by quad players (those affected in three or more limbs) and so athletes are pretty much guaranteed to be regular wheelchair-users.


Why are there two Paralympic football competitions?


The Football 5-a-side event is for footballers who are visually impaired and was first introduced in Athens 2004. Only the goalkeeper can be sighted and outfield players are required to wear blindfolds to ensure a level playing field owing to different types of visual impairment. The Football 7-a-side competition has run since 1984 and is for players with cerebral palsy. The game is played on a slightly smaller pitch than in able-bodied competition, with no offside rule. There are four different cerebral palsy classifications and each team must maintain a set ratio.


Are some Paralympic sports only open to specific disabilities?


Yes. Football 5-a-side (with the exception of the goalkeeper), Judo and the Paralympics-specific sport of Goalball are the three sports which are open solely to blind or visually impaired athletes. Football 7-a-side and the Paralympic sport of Boccia – which is similar to the French sport of 'boules' or 'petanque' – is played only by athletes with cerebral palsy and other similar non-progressive conditions.


Which Paralympic sports are only open to men? Do men and women compete together in any Paralympic sports?


Both Football competitions – 5-a-side and 7-a-side – are men-only events. Like in the Olympics, the Equestrian events see men and women compete on the same footing with no gender distinction made. Wheelchair Rugby is also open to both men and women – there is just one medal event and teams are combined. Although, given the physicality of the mixed-gender sport they call 'Murderball' there aren't many women players.


Do mental disabilities count at the Paralympics?


Athletes with an intellectual disability (ID) were part of the Games for the first time in 1996 and were welcomed back again in 2000 but a scandal at the Sydney Games involving the Spanish basketball team muddied the waters. It was alleged that several members of the gold-medal winning Spanish ID team were not actually intellectually disabled. This led to the withdrawal of the ID category from the Paralympics for the Athens and Beijing Games. But at London 2012 the ID classification returns for four sports: athletics, swimming, rowing and table tennis.


Who are 'Les Autres' in the Paralympics and what does it mean?


There are six broad categories of disabilities at the Paralympics: amputee, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, wheelchair, visually impaired and 'Les Autres'. This is the French term for 'The Others', which are athletes with disabilities that do not fall into the other five categories; they include dwarfism, multiple sclerosis and congenital deformities.


How many gold medals are available at the 2012 Paralympics?


There are 503 gold medals up for grabs – one for each Paralympic event. In total, around 4,200 Paralympic athletes from 166 nations will take part in 20 different sports, 21 different disciplines  and a total of 503 Paralympic events in 15 different venues in and around London.


What is the official Paralympic emblem?


Just as the Olympics boasts the famous five Olympic Rings emblem, so too does the Paralympics has its own symbol: three 'Agitos' coloured red, blue, and green, encircling a single point on a white field. The colours of the Agitos (from the Latin verb 'agito' – I move) feature the three most widely represented colours of national flags around the world. The Paralympic emblem took a bow at the closing ceremony in Athens 2004 and was used actively for the first time at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino before making its Summer Games debut at Beijing 2008. London 2012 marks the first time that the same logo is being used for both the London Olympics and London Paralympics – the 'London 2012' emblem appearing in standard colours of green, magenta and blue.    


Is there a Paralympic motto?


There is. The Paralympic motto is "Spirit in Motion" and was introduced in 2004 at the Paralympic Games in Athens. The previous motto was "Mind, Body, Spirit" and was introduced in 1994.


Who's quicker - a wheelchair marathon Paralympian or a regular Olympic marathon runners?


Good question. It's all relative, but Paralympians competing in the 26.2-mile race in a wheelchair can complete it much faster than regular Olympic runners. Take a look at the times for the Beijing Olympics for example: Samuel Kamau Wanjiru of Kenya won the men's Olympic marathon in a time of 2:06:32 whereas Australian Kurt Fearnley won the men's T54 wheelchair Paralympic marathon in a time of 1:23:17.


Could the world's best wheelchair sprinter beat Usain Bolt in the 100m?


While wheelchair racers are quicker over long distances it's a different story when it comes to sprinting. Finland's Leo-Pekka Tahti won the men's 100m T54 wheelchair gold medal in Beijing in a time of 13:81. That's more than four seconds slower than Usain Bolt's gold medal winning run of 9:69 in Beijing which set a new world record that the Jamaican then bettered in 2012 with his 9:63 Olympic record run in London.


Does the Paralympics have its own opening and closing ceremonies?


It does indeed. The Opening Ceremony starts at 8.30pm on Wednesday 29th August and is directed by leading British creative talents Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey MBE. Entitled 'Enlightenment', the Ceremony promises to be a celebration of the international spirit of the Paralympic Games that challenges perceptions of human possibility. The show will open with a fly-over by 'Aerobility', a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots. All in all, the Ceremony will feature more than 3,000 adult volunteers, 100 child volunteers and a professional cast of over 100, with Hemmings stressing his desire for it to be "both spectacular and deeply human". The Closing Ceremony 11 days later is entitled 'Festival of Flame' and is headlined by British soft rockers Coldplay. Directed by Kim Gavin, the same creative force behind the Olympic closing ceremony, the show will boast a music-heavy programme as well as a cast of almost 2,000 volunteers and professional performers. The ceremony will start with the arrival of flag-bearers from each participating country followed by athletes en masse, arriving into the stadium without any national distinction. Once the Paralympic Flag is taken down, the national flag of the next host nation, Brazil, will be symbolically raised before the extinguishing of the Paralympic Flame marks the end of not only the Paralympics but also London 2012 as a whole. For more information on both ceremonies visit our Paralympic Ceremonies article.


Does the Paralympics use the same venues as the Olympics?


For the most part, yes. The Olympic Park is the main focus with events taking place in all the venues used there for the Olympics. Alterations have been made to most of the venues, however. For example: during the Olympics, the Copper Box was home of the Handball competition, whereas in the Paralympics the pitch and goals will be altered accordingly for the Goalball competition. Likewise, the Riverbank Arena has been transformed from an Olympic Hockey venue to a Paralympic Football venue for both 7-a-side and 5-a-side. There is also one additional venue to the Olympic Park which was not used for the Olympics: Eton Manor, which hosts the Wheelchair Tennis competition. Outside the Olympics Park, the focus is primarily on the River Zone in and around Greenwich. The ExCeL Centre will be transformed to host six Paralympic sports while the North Greenwich Arena will have a less busy schedule than during the Olympics, hosting just the major Wheelchair Basketball games. Outside London, there are three venues. Eton Dorney will still host the Rowing and the Sailing will again take place at Weymouth and Portland in Dorset. The cycling events, rather than take place in Box Hill, Hampton Court and the streets of London and Surrey countryside, will take place at Brands Hatch in Kent. For full details on all the venues visit our London Paralympics Venues article.


Where in London can I watch the Paralympics on a big screen?


The BT Live sites were extremely popular during the Olympics and there will be a third in place for the Paralympics, taking place in Trafalgar Square. In addition to big screen coverage of the Games, there will also be live music and the opportunity for disabled and non-disabled visitors alike to try out a range of Paralympic sports on the Have-a-Go Sports Court. No tickets are required but there is a first-come, first-served entry system. Another popular place that got a lot of love during the Olympics and that is reopening for Paralympic watchers is Potters Fields by Tower Bridge - reveller spoke of a festival-like atmosphere during the high points of the Olympics. There will be two big screens in Newham, just a stone's throw away from the Olympic Park itself. One will be in Stratford Park from 11am to 11pm every day and there'll be another in Central Park in East Ham, though only open for the ceremonies and on the weekend. Other live sites include Walthamstow Town Square, where seating will be provided alongside daily big screen viewing, and General Gordon Square in Woolwich, where there will also be information about Paralympic sports and food and drink stalls. 


What access and assistance do the Paralympic venues have for disabled visitors?


The Olympic Park gets a Paralympic makeover in the sixteen day gap between the two Games. Signage, logos and banners will all be taken down and replaced, and modifications will be made to some of the existing facilities.

The Olympic Park was designed and built with inclusive access for disabled visitors in mind, and all the venues will aim to provide adequate ramps, toilets and wheelchair spaces for everyone. But some things have needed altering slightly: the lower floors of the Athletes’ Village - which previously housed 11,000 Olympians – will be fitted with equipment and access for wheelchairs and will become the base for 4,200 Paralympians. Some venues have created more spectator wheelchair seating, the Olympic Stadium have added nearly 200 new spaces.

In regards to getting around, 300 buses have been equipped with enough space to fit up to six wheelchairs and shuttle buses will be on hand from the nearest/main stations. Another travel option is to book a Blue Badge parking space, although these are limited and need to be pre-booked by UK Badge holders (proof of valid membership will be required on entry).

Inside the venues disabled spectators can call on assistance from the free Games Mobility service, which provides help for people who aren’t able to walk long distances. They will also be on hand to guide visually impaired spectators to their seats and can provide wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The sporting venues come equipped with areas designated for assistance dogs. Plus there will be an audio augmentation service for hearing aid users and the option for audio description or commentary.


Who is the most successful Paralympian?


Shooting star Jonas Jacobsson from Sweden is the most successful male Paralympian, winning silver and bronze medals at his first Games in 1980 as a 15-year-old and bagging a total of 28 medals throughout his career. Swimmer Mike Kenny - with 16 golds - remains Great Britain's most successful home-grown Paralympic athlete. In 1976, at the age of 31, he won triple-gold-medal in the swimming and in the next 12 years managed to secure an incredible 16 gold and two silver medals during his glittering Paralympic career which ended after the Seoul Games in 1988. The US, Britain and Germany are the most successful Paralympic countries.





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