Adapted/Reprinted from Audicus.com – By Elena McPhillips – 2/19/18
The Deaflympics were originally called the “International Games for the Deaf” and were first held in Paris in 1924. There were nine participating countries with 148 athletes. The name changed in 1996 to “World Games for the Deaf” and again in 2001 to “Deaflympics.” The games are held every two years and alternate Summer and Winter games. To qualify, athletes must have hearing loss of at least 55db in one ear. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are not allowed during competition to keep the playing field level. The athletes in the Deaflympics also have a greater age range than Olympic athletes. In the history of the games, the oldest medalist was nearly 76 years old and the youngest was 12! In the Deaflympics, referees use flags instead of whistles. On the track, races are started by a light instead of a pistol. Spectators watching the games often wave with both hands to cheer their athletes on, rather than yelling or clapping. However, the Deaflympics make sure not to alter the rules of sports in any way. All of the events are played the same way they are at the Olympics. In 2001, the International Committee of Sports of the Deaf published a statement about the future direction of the games and included this significant quote: “[…] the rules for playing each sport are not altered in any way for the deaf participants. This fact distinguishes Deaf sport from sports played by other groups of people with disabilities. Deaf people are not disabled in any manner except communication – and this is only a disability when a deaf person is in a situation where hearing and speech are the primary means of communication. Deaf people consider themselves a culturally distinct minority group and it is for cultural reasons that the Deaflympics exists.” Editor Note: The next Winter Deaflympics is scheduled for December 12-21, 2019, in Valtellina-Valchiavenna, Italy.