No. 23: First International Paralympic Day in 2003

International Paralympic Day started in Bonn, Germany, in 2003 and has since taken in capital cities such as Berlin and London raising the profile of para-sport. 31 Aug 2014
Tennis match between David Cameron and Boris Johnson at IPD

Boris Johnson and David Cameron dispute a friendly tennis match in Trafalgar Square during the 2011 International Paralympic Day


The first International Paralympic Day was held in 2003 at the home of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in Bonn, Germany.

Its aim was to raise awareness of para-sport outside of Games, involving an international cast of athletes and allowing the public to both meet their favourite stars and experience different types of sport.

Initially held between 25-27 September 2003, thousands of people were given the chance to try-out wheelchair basketball, shooting, wheelchair fencing, sitting volleyball and table tennis.

The spectacular Opening Ceremony featured a sky diver leaping from a plane over Bonn city centre to deliver the IPC Flag to President Sir Philip Craven in an ambitious display.

Those who attended also got to meet para-athletes such as German Nordic skier Verena Bentele, who used her incredible talents in visually impaired biathlon to teach participants how to shoot without sight.

Long-term partners Ottobock brought along a specially designed course so that people could experience using a wheelchair, and International Federations set-up exhibitions about their sports.

The final day was headlined by Germany facing the Netherlands in a thrilling wheelchair basketball match and a long-jump competition that featured world and Paralympic champions.

Since the inaugural event, the model of raising awareness of para-sport with the help of scores of international athletes through International Paralympic Day has lived on.

In the last decade the event has grown in size and profile and moved to Berlin, Germany, becoming biannual before being linked to Paralympic Games for the first time in September 2011, when the most ambitious International Paralympic Day yet was held in Trafalgar Square, London, Great Britain.

All 20 London 2012 Paralympic sports were showcased and demonstration events were held for wheelchair basketball, powerlifting, wheelchair rugby, rowing, table tennis and many more.

This included a 50m sprint exhibition race on a specially built track laid in front of the iconic National Gallery. The exhibition featured the USA’s 2011 world champion Jerome Singleton, South African Oscar Pistorius, the USA’s Beijing gold medallist April Holmes and France’s world champion Marie Amelie Le Fur.

London Mayor Boris Johnson and British Prime Minister David Cameron each partnered a wheelchair tennis player for a match that was covered extensively in national and international media.

A host of other well-known British faces such as Ellie Simmonds, David Weir and Tanni-Grey Thompson turned out to show their support and talk about the merits of para-sport.

The event also coincided with the launch of ticket sales for London 2012 and contributed towards the record-breaking crowds of what turned out to be the best Paralympic Games ever.

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