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20 Fascinating Facts About The Paralympics

23/08/2012 17:30 | Updated 22 May 2015

After the drama of the Olympics come the equally impressive Paralympics. This year is set to be the biggest ever staged.

But how much do you know about this amazing sporting spectacle which begins on August 29, running for 11 days?

20 fascinating facts about the ParalympicsPA Torchbearer Ade Adepitan on the Millennium Bridge

Here, from the amazing athletes involved to where it all began, we've got the inside track...

1. Until the Paralympics came along athletes with disabilities did sometimes compete in the Olympics. In fact, in 1904, American gymnast George Eyser won three gold medals in just one day, with an artificial leg. South African runner Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee and former gold medal Paralympian, will compete in the Olympics this summer too.

2. The first attempt to organise a specific contest for those with disabilities came in 1948. It was organised by Dr Ludwig Guttman, a neurologist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, for British World War II patients who had suffered spinal cord injuries. Sixteen veterans took part in an archery competition.

3. The mascot for the 2012 Paralympics, Mandeville, recalls this heritage.

20 fascinating facts about the ParalympicsPA Mascots Wenlock and Mandeville (left)

4. The Games got an international dimension in 1952 when the Dutch joined. The tournament continued to grow and in 1960 what is now considered the first Paralympic Games was held in Rome, Italy, with 400 athletes from 23 countries taking part in eight sports.

5. From then on the Paralympic Games were held every four years and athletes with different disabilities were allowed to participate from the 1976 Games held in Toronto, Canada.

6. At the Seoul games in 1988 the Paralympics were held in the same city and venues as the Summer Olympics for the first time.

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7. Athletes from 165 countries are set to compete at this year's Summer Paralympics in London, 19 more than at Beijing in 2008.

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8. Some 4200 athletes will take part in 20 sports at 20 venues in 503 medal events with over two million tickets for spectators.

9. Britain's most successful Paralympians include Tanni-Grey Thompson, who took part in wheelchair racing in the 100metre, 400 metre, and 800 metre events as well as basketball. She notched up 16 medals, 11 of them gold between 1988 and 2004.

10. Brit swimmer David Roberts also has 11 golds.

11.American swimmer Trischa Zorn tops the all time Paralympics medals table with 55 medals, 41 of them gold.

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12.The 2008 Paralympics saw 279 world records broken. Expect more to tumble.

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13. In 2008 Team GB came second to China in the medal table with an incredible 102 medals – 42 of them gold.

14. Just as there was an Olympic Torch Relay there is a Paralympic Torch Relay as well as celebratory Flame Festivals around the country. There will be a 24 hour Torch Relay from Stoke Mandeville to the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.

15. Team GB stars to watch out for this year include top wheelchair racer David Weir and swimmer and cyclist Sarah Storey. She already has five gold medals and will be going for more gongs on her bike.

16. British swimmer Eleanor Simmonds became our youngest ever individual gold medallist aged just 13 at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics winning top spot in the 100m and 400m freestyle.

20 fascinating facts about the ParalympicsPA Eleanor Simmonds with her two gold medals at the homecoming parade in 2008

17. Joanne Round was Britain's youngest ever Paralympic gold medal winner taking two swimming relay golds in Seoul in 1998 aged just 12 years old.

18. The Paralympic symbol is made up of three "agitos", coloured red, blue, and green, being the colours most widely included in national flags. The 'para' in the title is because the Games run parallel to the Olympic Games.

19. Among the sports are athletics, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and boccia, a sport a bit like the French boules.

20. Paralympic Events will take place at the Olympic Park as well as in a River Zone which includes ExCel, Greenwich Park, the Royal Artillery Barracks and North Greenwich Arenas. There will also be sailing at Weymouth, road cycling in central London and rowing at Eton Dorney. Eton Manor, within the Park will host Paralympic tennis.

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