1. The Paralympic Games originated at Stoke Mandeville hospital, as part of a rehabilitation programme for people with spinal injuries. The Games for the Paralysed were first held in 1948 to coincide with the London Olympics.
2. Britain’s most successful Paralympian is Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who retired from competition last year having won 16 medals, including 11 golds.
3. The ‘Para’ in Paralympics stands for parallel and not ‘paraplegic’ as is commonly thought.
4. The Paralympic Games are the second largest sporting event in the world, second only to the Olympics.
5. South African swimmer Natalie Du Toit, a former Paralympic competitor, hopes to become the first amputee to gain a medal at the mainstream summer Olympics when she competes in the 10k open water swimming event.
6. The Paralympics are sometimes confused with the Special Olympics. Rather than focusing on competition, the Special Olympics are events for people with learning disabilities that emphasise participation.
7. Disability sports have an impact far beyond those who participate. Technical innovations like sports wheelchairs and lightweight limbs have fed into mainstream design and made life easier for a great number of disabled people.
8. Deaf people are not involved in the Paralympics, but do have their own games – the Deaflympics. The next Deaflympics event will be held in Taiwan in 2009.
9. The Paralympic Village in Beijing will be the same as the Olympic Village and will house 7,000 residents – including 4,000 athletes, 2,000 team officials and more than 1,000 technical officials.
10. Paralympic athletes have a larger age range than Olympic competitors. The youngest British athlete bound for Beijing is swimmer Eleanor Simmonds, who is 13. The oldest is archer Fred Stevens, who turns 63 the month after the Paralympics.