The History of the International Paralympic Committee

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) – the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement – was founded on 22 September 1989 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The word 'Paralympic' derives from the Greek word 'Para' which means 'beside' or 'alongside'.  This wording ensures that the Paralympics are considered an equal of the Olympic Games (which is why there are also known as 'the Parallel Games') and the two movements existence together side by side where neither considered more or less important than the other.

The IPC replaced the original governing body for the Paralympic Movement known as the International Co-ordination Committee of World Sports Organizations for the Disabled (ICC).  The ICC was established in 1982 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who realised that with the Paralympic Movement rapidly growing, the need for a single governing body to look after parasport was imperative.

The ICC lasted just 7 years before it was replaced by the IPC as it was the strong wish of the member nations to form a parasport organisation with a democratic constitution and elected representatives (not the case under the ICC).

The IPC was established with a very clear remit: To Enable Paralympic Athletes to Achieve Sporting Excellence and Inspire and Excite the World.  Furthermore, the non-profit organisation had a clear goal to promote the Paralympic values through increased coverage  and to create sport opportunities for all persons with a disability, from beginner to elite level.

The IPC is currently run by around 162 National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) from five regions and four disability specific international sports federations (IOSDs).

The four IOSDs are:

  • CPISRA: Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association
  • IBSA: International Blind Sports Federation
  • INAS-FID: International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability
  • IWAS: International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation

Canadian Robert D. Steadward – the man credited with being one of the founders of the parasport movement and the IPC - became the first President of the organisation in 1989.

In 1991 the IPC changed its logo at the request of the IOC who felt the similarity of their logos was confusing and might hamper marketing.  The IPC decided on a symbol of three Tae-Geuks, representing the Paralympic Motto: Mind, Body, and Spirit.

The first Paralympic Games to be organized by the IPC were the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Paralympics in Norway. However, since the Lillehammer Paralympic Organizing Committee (LPOC) had already started a marketing programme for the 1994 Paralympic Winter Games based on the old IPC logo, the new logo wasn't officially launched until after the Lillehammer 1994 Games.

By 1999, the IPC had grown considerably and moved into what remains its current Headquarters in Bonn, Germany.  In December 2001, after the maximum of three terms in office, Steadward was succeeded by the former British Paralympian and President of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, Sir Philip Craven, who remains the IPC President to this day.  Under Craven, the IPC have continued to expand dramatically and perhaps the Movement's growth is best exemplified through the phenomenal rise of the Paralympic Games.

More countries competed at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics (3951 athletes, 146 countries) than at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games.  The Beijing 2008 Paralympics proved the most successful Paralympic Games in history in terms of number of participants, number of records broken and number of spectators tuning in around the world.

Sport for people with a disability is also growing at national and international level and the IPC will continue to promote the core Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality.

On 4 September 2009, the IPC celebrated a double anniversary.  It was the 20-year anniversary of the organisation's formation as well as the 10-year anniversary of the IPC moving into its Headquarters in Bonn.  The day was a special celebration that emphasised how far the Paralympic Movement has come since the inception of the IPC yet displayed how far there is still to go for the IPC to do to be considered truly parallel with the Olympic Games.

The last 20 years of the IPC's existence were perhaps best illustrated in a speech made by Sir Philip Craven in which he said: "This is a chance to recognize the growth of both the organization and the Paralympic Movement.  Whether we look to the development of the Paralympic Games or Paralympic Sport in general, the global audience has become more aware about athletes with a disability.  This has always been our aim and will continue to inspire us further."
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