London 2012 Paralympic Games only 50 days away

By U.S. Paralympics | July 10, 2012, 11 a.m. (ET)

From Aug. 29-Sept. 9, London will welcome the world's best Paralympic athletes for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. July 10 marks 50 days to the Opening Ceremony of the Games, slated to be the largest Games in history.

Here are 50 facts to get you ready for the Games:

  1. The 2012 Paralympic Games are the fourteenth edition of the Games.
  2. The first Paralympic Games were held in Rome, Italy in 1960 and featured 400 athletes from 23 countries. In 1976, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden staged the first Paralympic Winter Games.
  3. On July 29, 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes which he named the Stoke Mandeville Games. In 1952, the Stoke Mandeville Games opened to Dutch servicemen, and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were founded.
  4. For the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the 24-hour Paralympic torch relay will start at Stoke Mandeville.
  5. Since the Games of Seoul, Korea in 1988 and the Paralympic Winter Games in Albertville, France in 1992, the Paralympic Games have also taken part in the same cities and venues as the Olympic Games because of an agreement between the International Paralympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee.
  6. On September 22, 1989, the International Paralympic Committee was founded as an international non-profit organization in Dusseldorf, Germany, to act as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement.
  7. The word “Paralympic” derives from the Greek preposition “para”, meaning beside or alongside, and the word “Olympic”, illustrating that the Paralympic Games are parallel to the Olympic Games. The two movements exist side-by-side.
  8. The Paralympic Games are the second largest sporting event in the world, behind the Olympic Games.
  9. The motto for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is “Inspire a Generation”.
  10.  “Spirit in Motion” is the motto for the Paralympic Movement.
  11. The symbol for the Paralympics Games contains three colors, red, blue, and green, which are the colors most widely represented in the flags of nations. The colors are each in the shape of an Agito, which is Latin for "I move", and the three Agitos circle a central point, which is a symbol for the athletes congregating from all points of the globe.
  12. For the first edition of the Paralympic Games, only wheelchair athletes could compete but the competition has since expanded.
  13. The Paralympic Games are primarily for athletes with physical and visual impairments. In 2012, for the first time in 12 years, intellectually disabled athletes will compete in swimming, table tennis and track and field at the Paralympic Games.
  14. The International Paralympic Committee organizes Paralympic athletes in to six different categories: amputee, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, wheelchair, visually impaired and “les autres”, which means “the others” in French. Athletes with a physical disability that does not fall strictly under one of the other five categories, such as dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or congenital deformities of the limbs such as that caused by thalidomide, fall under “les autres”.
  15. Within the disability categories, athletes are further classified according to their abilities, which allows for more fair competition among participants. Paralympic classifications can be compared to able-bodied classifications like weight classes in boxing.
  16. Track athletes with visual impairments often compete with an able-bodied guide at the Paralympic Games. An essential part of the competition, visually impaired athletes and guides are considered a team, and both are medal candidates.
  17. The United States has 2,101 total medals from the Paralympic Games, summer and winter, the most of any nation. Germany (1587) ranks second while Great Britain (1447) is third.
  18. The U.S. Paralympic Team finished third in the medal count at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games with 99 medals, coming in behind China (211) and Great Britain (102). U.S. athletes claimed 36 gold, 35 silver and 28 bronze medals. Team USA ranked sixth at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
  19. At the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, the United States won medals in archery, cycling, goalball, judo, rowing, sailing, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.
  20. The 2008 U.S. Paralympic Swim Team was the most successful American contingent at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, winning 44 overall medals, the most claimed by any nation. Team USA swimmers earned 17 gold, 14 silver and 13 bronze medals in Beijing. American swimmers also set a total of 16 world records, 23 Paralympic records, 48 Pan American records and 99 American records in Beijing.
  21. The London 2012 Paralympic Games will be the largest edition of the Games yet, with an estimated 4,200 participating athletes, up from the 3,951 who competed in Beijing.
  22. Athletes from 165 countries will participate in the London 2012 Paralympic Games, which is representation from 19 more nations than in Beijing.
  23. In 2012, 16 countries are set to take part in the Paralympic Games for the first time. The countries debuting in London are Antigua & Barbuda, Brunei, Cameroon, Comoros, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, North Korea, San Marino, Solomon Islands, Trinidad & Tobago and U.S. Virgin Islands.
  24. In London, 20 sports will be contested over 11 days. The sports are: archery, boccia, cycling, equestrian, goalball, judo, powerlifting, rowing, sailing, shooting, sitting volleyball, soccer (five-a-side and seven-a-side), swimming, table tennis, track and field, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair fencing and wheelchair tennis.
  25. The largest sport at the London 2012 Paralympic Games will be track and field (athletics). A maximum of 1,100 athletes will compete in track and field, 740 men and 300 women. The United States has 54 track and field athletes.
  26. The most decorated Paralympian in history is Trischa Zorn, a blind swimmer from the United States. In a career that spanned from the 1980 Paralympic Games to 2004, she won 55 medals, including 41 gold. Zorn was slated to compete at the 1980 Olympic Games as well but the United States did not send a team.
  27. The first Paralympic athlete to participate in the Olympic Games was Neroli Fairhall, a Paralympic archer from New Zealand, who competed at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.
  28. Paralympic Champion Oscar Pistorius, a South African sprinter, will become the first amputee to race in the Olympic Games later this year. He was second at the IPC Athletics World Championships to American Jerome Singleton, who will compete against Pistorius at the Paralympic Games.
  29. Aimee Mullins will serve as the Chef de Mission for the U.S. Paralympic Team at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. President of the Women's Sports Foundation from 2007-08 and a current trustee for the organization, Mullins made a groundbreaking achievement at Georgetown University where she competed as the first-ever amputee on an NCAA Division I track team. A member of the 1996 U.S. Paralympic Team, she set world records in the 100m, 200m and long jump during her career.
  30. The United States will be represented by more than 200 athletes in London. The only events in which Team USA will not participate are men’s goalball, soccer (five-a-side) and men’s sitting volleyball.
  31. The United States has yet to nominate athletes in two sports: equestrian and soccer (seven-a-side).
  32. Eighteen athletes nominated to the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team are U.S. military veterans or active duty service members including Navy Lieutenant Bradley Snyder, who lost his vision in September 2011 while serving in Afghanistan. Snyder is slated to compete in swimming on the one year anniversary of his injury.
  33. The 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team includes 19 athletes who won multiple medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. The athletes are Jim Bob Bizzell (three medals), Jeremy Campbell (two), Anna Earnes (two), Amanda Everlove (three), Anjali Forber-Pratt (two).Jessica Galli (five), Rudy Garcia-Tolson (two), Josh George (two), Cortney Jordan (four), Lantz Lamback (four), Jessica Long (six), Tatyanna McFadden (four), Amanda McGrory (four), Roy Perkins (two), Oz Sanchez (two), Jennifer Schuble (three), Jerome Singleton (two), Jeff Skiba (two) and David Wagner (two).
  34. Jessica Long, who co-led the medal count for the United States at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games with six, is set to swim in her third consecutive Games. She has nine Paralympic Games medals, including seven golds.  
  35. The London 2012 Paralympic Games are the sixth Games for cyclist Allison Jones, who also competes in the Paralympic Winter Games as a ski racer.
  36. Tatyana McFadden, a wheelchair racer who won four medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, is joined on the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team by her sister Hannah. It is the first time sisters have raced against each other for Team USA.
  37. Three athletes set world records at the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Trials – Track and Field in Indianapolis en route to spots on the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team. Raymond Martin set the 30.18 world mark in the men’s 200m (T52) while Jessica Galli had a 28.93 in the women’s 200m (T53). In the women’s shot put (F56), Angela Madsen threw a 9.30m.
  38. At the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Trials – Swimming, a total of 99 American, 37 Pan American and 12 world records were set at the Bismarck State College Aquatic and Wellness Center. Jessica Long set five of the world records achieved in Bismarck.
  39. A digital clock counting down to the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games and 2012 Paralympic Games is located in London’s Trafalgar Square.
  40. The International Paralympic Committee will stream 580 hours of competition live from London on including daily coverage of swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball. In addition more than 1,000 hours of sporting action from a number of venues, including individual races and matches, will be made available on the IPC website as video on demand during the course of the Games.
  41. Approximately 1.5 million tickets were sold for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
  42. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are Wenlock and Mandevlle. Wenlock is named after the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock, which held a forerunner of the current Olympic Games. Mandeville is named after Stoke Mandeville, a village in Buckinghamshire where the Paralympic Games originated.
  43. The first medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games will be handed out on Aug. 30 in cycling, judo, shooting, power lifting and swimming. Just prior to the Sept. 9 Closing Ceremony, medals will be awarded for soccer (seven-a-side), track and field and wheelchair rugby.
  44. It took 10 hours to make each one of the 4,700 medals produced for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  45. London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games medals are held at the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels are also kept under armed guard. The medals are being held in a below ground vault that is secured with a unique barcoded seal. The vault can only be opened in the presence of a London 2012 official with a security clearance.
  46. The Olympic and Paralympic Games gold medal is made up of 92.5 percent silver and 1.34 percent gold while the remainder is copper. Each gold medal is comprised of a minimum of 6 grams of gold. The silver medal is 92.5 per cent silver and the rest is copper. The bronze medal is made of 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and the remainder is tin.
  47. One-hundred artists were asked to submit designs for the Olympic and Paralympic Games medals. The London 2012 Paralympic Games medals were ultimately designed by Lin Cheung, an instructor at Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design.
  48. Unlike Olympic medals, the outside of the Paralympic medals have text written in English and braille writing.
  49. The front of the Paralympic Games medal represents the Paralympic motto “Spirit in Motion”.  The reverse side represents moving forward with an up-close view of an outstretched wing of Goddess of Victory, Nike.
  50. Medalists at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will receive the largest and heaviest medals ever made for summer Games. The diameter of a 2012 medal is 3.3 inches with a thickness of 8-10 millimeters. Gold and silver medals weigh 412 grams while the bronze is 357.