The Paralympic Games are the second largest sporting event in the world, conceding top honors only to the Olympics. The multi-sport competition showcases the talents and abilities of the world's most elite athletes with physical disabilities. The Paralympic Games are held after the Olympic Games in the same host city/country and in the same venues.
At the 2008 Games in Beijing, 3,951 athletes from 146 countries competed in 20 different sports. The United States was represented by 213 athletes. The 90,000 seat Bird’s Nest Stadium staged a spectacular Opening Ceremony which involved the contributions of 4,813 performers. Both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies were sold out. In total, 1.82 million tickets were sold and a cumulative audience of 3.8 billion watched on TV. London 2012 will be the biggest Paralympic Games ever featuring 4,200 athletes from 160 countries.
The Paralympic Games are distinctly different than the Special Olympic World Games. The two, which are often confused as one in the same, are totally separate events. They are developed by two entirely different organizations which have different objectives.
The Paralympic Games provide world-class competition for elite disabled athletes at the highest level. Much like Olympians, Paralympians compete for gold, silver and bronze medals against the best in the world.
Special Olympics International focuses on participation of everyone and involves individuals from ages 8 to 80 that are mentally handicapped. All participants are considered winners and receive medals.