Paralympic Sport provides a world of opportunities for individuals with physical impairments to showcase their talents within the sporting field.
At the height of such sport one finds the Paralympic Games, often referred to as the Paralympics, which are a periodic series of international multi-sport events involving athletes with a range of disabilities or intellectual impairments.
These sports are organised and run under the supervision of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and other international sports federations. They provide the para-athletes concerned with the chance to compete on an international level.
There are two types of Paralympics; the Summer Games as well as the Winter Games, which are normally held immediately after the conclusion of the Olympic Games.
Today, the Paralympics have grown into the world’s third largest sporting event, behind the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. Netflix’s latest ground-breaking documentary film ‘Rising Phoenix’ has certainly increased the world’s awareness and attracted more followers to such Games.
Whilst sport for athletes with an impairment has existed for over 100 years, it was not until after World War II that the first type of Paralympic sport competition was held thanks to the efforts of Dr Ludwig Guttmann.
Named the Stoke Mandeville Games, the milestone competition comprised of 16 wheelchair war veterans who were recovering from injuries sustained during the war who took part in in a game of archery.
The first Paralympic Games as are known today took place in 1960 in Rome which saw the participation of 23 countries and 400 athletes competing in eight disciplines.
By the start of the twenty-first century during the Sydney Games in 2000, 123 countries took part with 3,870 athletes competing in 19 different disciplines.
The 2012 Summer Paralympic Games will go down in history as being the Games that saw record crowds, broadcasters, athletes and countries competing.
Research conducted after the Games also revealed that one in three adults had changed their views towards people with an impairment following the success of the Games.
The last Summer Paralympics held in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, saw the first Independent Paralympic Athletes Team competing made up of two refugees, as well as a record number of 1,670 competing female athletes.
Whilst unfortunately the 2020 Summer Paralympic Games had to be postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that such Games are set to continue building on the past successes.
The Paralympic Games are fundamentally defined by classification systems that first determine which athletes are eligible to compete in the Games, then group those athletes into sport classes, all to ensure a level playing field.
Classification minimises the effects of physical impairment, allowing athletic ability and sporting excellence to be the determinative factors.
On the domestic front, the Malta Paralympic Committee (MPC) was formally established in July 2018.
The MPC is the national governing body for Para Sports in Malta, responsible for implementing the mission statement of the Paralympic Movement.
It is entrusted with the development of Para Sports in Malta and Gozo and for assisting para-athletes and national sport associations in developing Paralympic Sport disciplines and in achieving sporting inclusion and excellence, as well as being responsible for the National Paralympic Team.
Like all other sports competitions, the Paralympic Games rely heavily on funding, such as sponsorships, grants, as well as ticket and merchandise sales.
Whilst there is no doubt that the Paralympics are at the top of the world’s attention immediately prior and during the Games, unfortunately such public awareness crashes back to ground following the end of such Games, much to the frustration and dismay of Paralympics organisers and athletes concerned.
This of course creates a commercial challenge for those organisations charged with running Paralympic sports as well for the competing para-athletes, to find the necessary financial support and assistance to continue pursuing their respective careers.
Over the years gone by, the Paralympics have sparked a global movement.
Such Games have proven that the human body and mind are truly capable of remarkable things and the sky is the limit.
Every athlete that takes part in such Games is an inspiration to us all, a figure of hope, courage, determination and to never give up no matter the obstacles or challenges that we may find in front of us.
Dr Robert Dingli is a sports lawyer and Associate at Dingli & Dingli Law Firm