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How to Support the Paralympic Games

“Even if we do find a complete theory of everything, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” – Stephen Hawking, at the opening ceremony for the London Olympic Games

We’re pretty exhausted from the recent Olympic Fever and keen to book a holiday to a warm spot, but we don’t want to miss out on the London Paralympics that started this week. Another glittering opening ceremony, more fireworks and an oversized cauldron… err… torch – awesome!

“Enlightenment” was the theme of the ceremony that featured golden wheelchairs, amputees performing acrobatics and even Stephen Hawking, who made an appearance in this worthy sequel to Danny Boyle’s earlier information-age-NHS-London-Calling extravaganza.

Over the next eleven days, Paralympians will compete in 20 sports that range from archery to cycling, rowing, sailing, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball and equestrian events.

The 4,200 athletes hail from 165 nations, and include Paralympic icons like cyclist Joe-Allan Butterworth, discus thrower Derek Derenalagi, the great Paralympian runner Oscar Pistorius, wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer and British swimmers Stefanie Millward and Ellie Simmonds, pictured below.

The Basic Rules

Athletes are categorized according to how much their disabilities affect their performances. These “classes” are made up of number pairs where the first digit indicates the type of impairment and the second digit is its severity. The lower the number, the higher the impact on the athlete’s performance.

  • 11-13: Visual impairment
  • 20: Intellectual impairment
  • 31-38: Cerebral palsy (31-34 wheelchair-bound)
  • 40-46: Loss of limb or limb deficiency
  • 51-58: Wheelchair racers or athletes competing in a wheelchair
  • T / F Track or Field
  • Raza: A mathematical formula applied to each athlete’s throw or jump to calculate a points score

If you’re interested in reading up about the top athletes, rules and equipment involved in the 2012 Paralympics, take a look at this awesome set of infographics; we’ve included the wheelchair racing one below, click on the image to see a bigger version.