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Summer Olympics vs Paralympics: 6 major differences 

Paralympics Logo BT Paralympic World Cup - Day Two
Paralympics Logo BT Paralympic World Cup - Day Two
Modified 13 Feb 2021

The Olympics and Paralympics are two of the biggest sporting events in the world and take place every four years in 2 segments - The Summer and the Winter Games. The Paralympics takes place immediately after the Olympics in the same host city.

The Olympics are older and more popular than the Paralympics. However, the Olympics and Paralympics have some interesting similarities and differences between them in terms of criteria, games played, time, and rules. Let's take a look at these interesting differences between the Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

#1 History

The modern Olympic Games were conceptualized by Pierre de Coubertin taking inspiration from the ancient Olympic Games which were held in Greece. He also founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894, leading to the first modern Olympic Games which was the 1896 Athens Olympics. Since then, the modern Summer Olympics have been held every four years except the 1912,1940 and 1944 editions which were canceled due to World War I and II.

At the opening ceremony of the 1948 London Olympic Games, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes which was named Stoke Mandeville Games by him. This was a milestone in Paralympics history and it involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery.

Later, the Stoke Mandeville Games metamorphosed into the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960. It featured 400 athletes from 23 countries. Since then, the Paralympic Summer Games have been held once every four years.

#2 Governing Body

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the governing body of the Summer Olympics which was founded by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894. It is a leader of the Olympic movement and comprises 3 major parts which are the International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOGs).

In 1989, the International Paralympic Committee was formed as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) in Germany to act as the Global Governing body of the Paralympic Games. It consists of representatives from 176 National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), four International Organizations of Sport for the Disabled (IOSDs), and five Regional Organizations.

#3 Athletes


The Summer Olympic Games are held once every four years for able-bodied athletes. The Paralympic Games, on the other hand, involve athletes with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities.

#4 Time Of Event

The Summer Olympics are held once every 4 years in a different host country. The Paralympic Games are held immediately after the Summer Olympics in the same host city.

#5 Sports

Wheelchair Basketball
Wheelchair Basketball

There are currently 33 sports in the Summer Olympics with 5 new sports having been added at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. (aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, baseball/softball, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, handball, judo, karate, modern pentathlon, rowing, rugby sevens, sailing, shooting, skateboarding, sport climbing, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, surfing, volleyball, weightlifting, taekwondo, wrestling)

There are 22 Summer Paralympic Sports with two new sports, badminton and taekwondo, making their debuts at the Tokyo Games. A few sports are the same, but the difference is how it is played. For example, instead of basketball, wheelchair basketball is played in Paralympics.


The Olympic Rings are the symbol of the Summer Olympics. It consists of five rings interlocked with each other and colored blue, yellow, black, green, and red. These rings represent the five inhabited continents of the World and at least one of these colors is present in the national flags of all participating countries.

The symbol of Paralympics is composed of three 'agitos', colored red, blue, and green, encircling a single point on a white field. This is a symbol for athletes coming together from all around the world. The agito is a symbol of movement which in Latin means 'I move' that is specially designed for the Paralympic movement. Moreover, the 3 colors are widely represented in national flags all around the World.

Published 13 Feb 2021, 00:23 IST
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