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It’s Official – London 2012 to be Biggest Paralympic Games Ever

4,200 athletes from 165 countries set to take part as Paralympic Games return to spiritual birthplace

London Olympic Park Aerial View An aerial view of London's Olympic Park, which will welcome 4,200 athletes to the Paralympic Games on 29 August. © • Getty Images

"It’s fantastic news to mark 100 days to go that we can announce that the London Games will be the biggest ever. The Paralympic Games continue to grow in size and stature each edition and it is even more pleasing that Great Britain, the spiritual birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, will get to host the biggest ever Paralympic Games later this year."

To coincide with 100 days to go until the London 2012 Paralympics, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced that they will officially be the biggest Games ever with 165 countries set to participate in the event.

This means that 19 more countries will take part in London compared to Beijing four years ago and the number of athletes set to compete will also increase from 3,951 to around 4,200. All countries have been allocated slots either through Minimum Qualifying Standards, Bipartite Agreements or Universality Wild Cards.

Sixteen countries are set to take part in their first Paralympic Games in London. They 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 US Virgin Islands.

Sir Philip Craven, IPC President, said: “It’s fantastic news to mark 100 days to go that we can announce that the London Games will be the biggest ever. The Paralympic Games continue to grow in size and stature each edition and it is even more pleasing that Great Britain, the spiritual birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, will get to host the biggest ever Paralympic Games later this year.

“It’s hard to believe that the forerunner for the Paralympics took place just 64 years ago at Stoke Mandeville Hospital with 16 injured war veterans, when you consider that 4,200 elite athletes will now compete in London.

“The Games won’t just be the biggest ever in terms of athletes and countries either. I also believe the levels of athletic performance will reach new levels and away from the field of play London could be the Paralympic Movement’s first sold out Games in terms of spectators too. A record numbers of TV viewers around the world are also set to tune in.

“The recent Paralympic test events gave us all a flavour of what we can expect later this summer, and between now and 29 August the excitement levels will continue to rise to astronomical levels.”

The seed for the Paralympic Games was sown in Great Britain in 1948 when the Stoke Mandeville Games took place on a small area of grassland at the back of the spinal injuries hospital and featured 16 injured war veterans competing in Archery.

Twelve years later, 400 athletes from 23 countries gathered in Rome, Italy for the first Paralympic Games which featured eight sports.

Since 1960 the Games have taken place every four years and not only have the numbers taking part increased but so have the levels of athletic performance. Since Seoul in 1988 the Paralympics have taken place in the same city and same venues as the Olympics, a trend that will continue until at least 2020.

Four years ago Beijing staged the best Paralympic Games to date and a staggering 279 world records were broken. A cumulative TV audience of 3.8 billion watched the Games around the world, and a further 3.44 million spectators packed out the venues.

With 100 days to go until the start of this year’s Paralympic Games, London 2012 is on course to be a record breaker. In addition to a record number of athletes and countries taking part, more than one million tickets, an unprecedented number so many months ahead of a Games, were sold last September. Tickets went back on general sale on Monday (21 May).

LOCOG also recently announced a record-breaking collection of Rights Holding Broadcasters who will screen the Paralympic Games across the globe this summer. The total worldwide broadcast deals for the London 2012 Paralympic Games will see a record £10 million in revenue generated from the sale of broadcast rights to the Paralympics – greater than for any previous Games.

These deals will provide the Paralympic Games and Paralympic Sport with the strongest Games broadcast coverage ever received, ensuring the widest possible audience can enjoy the Games. It is estimated a cumulated audience of around 4 billion people will watch the Games between 29 August and 9 September.