The Paralympic Games are held every four years, following the Olympic Games, and are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The Paralympics first started in 1948 when Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England for Second World War veterans that had spinal injuries. The competition took place between sports clubs and other hospitals on the same day as the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games.
The first Paralympic Games were held in Rome, Italy, in 1960 and involved 400 athletes from 23 countries. Originally, only wheelchair athletes were invited to compete. Since that time, the Paralympic Games have grown dramatically. Athletes competing at the Games are divided into the following disability groups: visual impairments, amputees, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries and Les Autres - athletes with physical disabilities that are not included in the categories mentioned above.
The 2012 Paralympic Games will take place between 29 August and 9 September. They will be the biggest Paralympic Games ever, featuring 4,200 athletes from 160 countries who will compete in 20 sports.
To commemorate the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games, the United Nations Postal Administration will issue stamps on 17 August 2012 featuring six paralympic sports. Three souvenir sheets will also be released on the same day.
Sport is a universal language that can be a powerful tool in promoting peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. The 2012 Paralympic Games in London will continue its tradition of promoting the Olympic spirit by featuring exceptional athletes with amazing talents that continue to inspire people around the world.