Rotterdam 2023: European Para Championships open with spectacular celebration

The European Para Championships take place between 8 and 20 August 2023, featuring 1,500 athletes competing across 10 Para sports 08 Aug 2023
dancers performing on a stage surrounded by brightly coloured light beams
The Opening Ceremony of the first European Para Championships
ⒸEuropean Para Championships 2023

The inaugural European Para Championships have opened in Rotterdam, Netherlands, following a spectacular ceremony. A total of 1,500 Para athletes from 45 countries will take part in the first multi-Para sport European Championships. The Opening Ceremony took place at Rotterdam Ahoy and featured music and dance performances alongside videos showcasing each Para sport. 

During the 13-day championships, athletes will compete across 10 sports – Para archery, Para badminton, boccia, Para cycling, goalball, Para judo, shooting Para sport, Para taekwondo, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. 

The first finals on day one of competition (Tuesday 8 August) will be held in Para judo. In total, 208 gold medals will be presented before the championships close on 20 August.

With just over a year until the Paris 2024 Paralympics, the championships in Rotterdam also serve as an important stop on the road to the Games.  

The Opening Ceremony featured music and dance performances Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023


Paralympic stars in Rotterdam

Europe’s finest athletes and Paralympic medallists are competing at the championships, including Paralympic champions David Smith (boccia) and Lucas Mazur (Para badminton). 

The Netherlands are fielding a star-studded team hoping to put on a show in front of their home fans. The women’s basketball team is competing just two months after winning the World Championships in Dubai

“I think playing in front of your home crowd is obviously fantastic and the fact that it’s so big and beautiful then, I think that’s just super cool,” said wheelchair basketball star Bo Kramer, who helped the Dutch team top the podium at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

On the tennis court, Tokyo 2020 Paralympic champion Diede De Groot is aiming to continue her winning streak, having not lost a single match since February 2021. 

“I think it’s very special for us that we can still get that ticket for Paris at these European Championships. It’s very nice to just have that certainty,” de Groot said.

“For us, it’s a whole year of qualifying, so you have to be on top of your game for a whole year. And then to have your ticket fixed already, that feels nice.” 

Creating history a year before Paris 2024 

The European Para Championships will be held every four years and will be hosted by a major European city in the year preceding the Paralympic Games.  

This year, the event is a Paralympic qualification opportunity for five of the 10 Para sports contested in Rotterdam. 

1,500 athletes across 10 Para sports are competing at Rotterdam 2023 Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023


In Para archery, boccia, shooting Para sport and wheelchair basketball, top-ranked athletes or teams can book qualification slots for their National Paralympic Committees. In wheelchair tennis, the winners in the men’s and women’s singles tournament will earn tickets to Paris 2024. 

In his speech at the Opening Ceremony, International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons emphasised the importance of the Dutch city hosting the first-ever European Championships. 

“With this being the first multi-Para sport European Championships to take place in one host city, you are adding a new chapter to Rotterdam’s rich 800-year history,” he said. “The beautiful thing about being a pioneer is that you never know where it will take you. 

IPC President Andrew Parsons speaking at the Opening Ceremony Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023


“Here in Rotterdam, there are 10 sports and 1,500 Para athletes from 45 different countries competing to become European champions. Next year, the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will feature 22 sports and 4,400 athletes from 180 countries, all playing their part in the world’s third biggest sports event. 

“Many of the athletes that will compete in Paris are in front of me now. We just don’t know who they are yet. And that’s the beauty of sport.”

Where to watch  

Rotterdam Ahoy will host eight of the 10 Para sports, while a number of outdoor venues are spread across the city centre to showcase competitions to the public.  

Several events, including wheelchair basketball clinics and frame running clinics, will also be organised in the city.

All competitions will be streamed live on the official European Para Championships platforms. Visit the European Para Championships website for more information.