Paralympics 2021 - History of Paralympic Games | List of Winners

The Indian team in the recently concluded Paralympics at Tokyo has won 19 medals, overall 23 in the list of the country-wise medal tally. This has created euphoria among common citizens, and rightfully so has set in motion the discussion on the rights of the Divyangjan as well as sports infrastructure for their success. 

The UPSC has in the recently conducted Civil Service Preliminary Examination, 2021, asked three questions from sports, which has been hitherto an uncharted territory in the post-2011 reforms era. Keeping in view the importance of such a crucial international event, we shall be discussing various aspects of the Paralympics games, challenges and policies for the Divyangjan in India in ensuring sports as a basic tenet of their rights. 

Further, this article covers other important aspects, keeping in mind the demands of the Preliminary as well as the Main Examination of the UPSC IAS Exam.

Download UPSC Prelims 2021 Question Papers PDF from the linked article. 

What are Paralympics?

  • Paralympic Games or Paralympics is an international multi-sport event for athletes with a range of disabilities.
  • The event usually takes place every two years and almost immediately after the Olympic Games.
  • There are two versions of the Paralympic Games:
    • Winter Games
    • Summer Games. 
  • Paralympic Games are managed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
  • Participating athletes have a range of disabilities including impaired muscle power, hypertonia, ataxia, vision impairment, intellectual impairment, etc.

What are the Categories in which the Paralympics Athletes Compete? 

Given the different types of disabilities, there are several categories for Paralympic athletes to compete in. There are ten eligible impairment types. The categories are:

  • Muscle power
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Limb deficiency
  • Leg length difference
  • Short stature
  • Hypertonia
  • Ataxia
  • Athetosis
  • Vision impairment 
  • Intellectual impairment 

They are further classified into different categories depending on the sport.

What is the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)?

  • It is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. 
  • The body comprises 176 National Paralympic Committees and four disability-specific international sports federations. 
  • The IPC manages the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. 
  • It is also the international federation for 9 sports. 
  • It regulates World Championships and other competitions for each of the 9 sports it manages.

History and Evolution of the Paralympics

  • On 29 July 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Guttmann organised the first competition for wheelchair athletes which he named the Stoke Mandeville Games, a milestone in Paralympic history. 
  • They involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery.
  • The Stoke Mandeville Games later became the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries. 
  • Since then, they have taken place every four years.
  • In 1976 the first Winter Games in Paralympics history were held in Sweden, and as with the Summer Games, have taken place every four years, and include a Paralympics Opening Ceremony and Paralympics Closing Ceremony.
  • Since the Summer Games of Seoul, Korea in 1988 and the Winter Games in Albertville, France in 1992 the Games have also taken part in the same cities and venues as the Olympics due to an agreement between the IPC and IOC.
  • In future, it is to be held in Beijing in 2022, in Milano Cortina, 2026 as the Paralympic Winter Games.  
  • This year it was held in Tokyo for the 2020 edition, and in the future, it will be held at the Paris-2024, Los Angeles-2028 Paralympic Games.

What are India’s achievements in the Tokyo Paralympics?

  • India won 19 medals at the Tokyo Paralympics:
    • Five gold
    • Eight silver
    • Six bronze
  • Shooter Avani Lekhara became the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold medal, and also the unique feat to win two Paralympics medals.
  • There were several historic firsts:
    • Bhavina Patel became the first Indian table tennis player to win a Paralympic medal
    • Harvinder Singh mirrored the feat in archery. 
  • The list of Paralympics Winners 2021 from India is given below:

Indian Medallists at Tokyo Paralympics 

Name Sport Medal
Bhavina Patel Women’s singles table tennis Class 4 category Silver
Nishad Kumar Men’s high jump T47 Silver
Avani Lekhara Women’s 10m air rifle  shooting standing SH1

Women’s 50m rifle 3 positions shooting SH1

Gold

Bronze

Devendra Jhajharia Men’s javelin throw F46 Silver
Sundar Singh Gurjar Men’s javelin throw F46 Bronze
Yogesh Kathuniya Men’s discus throw F56 Silver
Sumit Antil Men’s javelin throw F64 Gold
Singhraj Adhana Men’s 10m air pistol shooting SH1 Bronze
Mariyappan Thangavelu Men’s high jump T42 Silver
Sharad Kumar Men’s high jump T42 Bronze
Praveen Kumar Men’s high jump T64 Silver
Krishna Nagar Men’s singles badminton SH6 Gold
Harvinder Singh Men’s individual recurve – open archery Bronze
Manish Narwal Men’s 50m pistol SH1 Gold
Singhraj Adhana Men’s 50m pistol SH1 Silver
Pramod Bhagat Men’s singles badminton SL3 Gold
Manoj Sarkar Men’s singles badminton SL3 Bronze
Suhas Yathiraj Men’s singles badminton SL4 Silver

What are the Provisions for Para Athletes at Various Levels?

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was ratified by India in 2007,  and pursuant to it the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPD Act) was enacted.
  • Section 30 of the RPD Act elaborates on the measures to be undertaken to ensure the sporting rights of Indians with disabilities. 
  • It mandates restructuring of courses and programmes to ensure access, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in sporting activities; redesigning infrastructure; developing technology to enhance potential and talent; allocation of funds.

Read about Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 in the linked article. 

Challenges faced by the Divyang Sports Persons

  • Despite the stellar performance at Rio in 2016, the Special Olympic World Games, Deaf Sports Events, etc, there are still issues of access to sports infrastructure at the grassroots in India.
  • Para sports persons, with some exceptions, continue to be denied entry to major sporting facilities and there are very few tangible measures taken to enhance support systems for them.
  • The funding and sponsorship facility from Public-private-partnership has helped immensely the athletes, but the barrier to access was difficult to scale for many, and only a handful of few could access the facilities.
  • Challenges in social barriers, capacity building, training infrastructure, funding and delay in implementation of the projects.

Conclusion

The Para athletes and Paralympics reflect the triumph of the human spirit over all odds, to stay afloat, to find meaning to go ahead in life despite all adversities. They strive towards excellence with an effervescent smile in place. The need of the hour for us as a nation is to develop infrastructure and improve access for differently-abled athletes. With the provisions of the RPD Act, being in force, India now has a robust framework to protect the sporting rights of persons with disabilities, overcoming the barriers to access to infrastructure.

Different sports administrative and governing bodies must come together, join hands and work together towards protecting and advancing the sporting rights of India’s athletes with disabilities.

The need of the hour is to put in place governance and oversight mechanisms. Enforcement of the mandates of the UNCRPD and the RPD Act are needed. 

The issues of funding and the idea of equal treatment as demanded and long overdue must be given a thought, and the time is ripe to enhance spending on para-sports, address these disparities, inequality of access and other uncomfortable truths, in order to make sports more inclusive. Further, the conversations around para-sports should gain more credence in times ahead, and get mainstreamed. This will, for sure, usher in a new outlook towards para-sports, sportspersons, and impact the way society treats the Divyangjan from being objects of charity to holders of rights.

This article is relevant for the sections of the Current Affairs part of the UPSC Syllabus prescribed for the Preliminary and Main Stages of Civil Services Exam. 

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