What you need to know about the Paralympics

We run down everything you need to know about the Paralympics.

What you need to know about the Paralympics

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Wheelchair basketball

When is the Paralympics?

The opening ceremony is on Wednesday August 29, with the events running from Thursday August 30 through to Sunday September 9. Unlike the Olympics, many of the events run right through the whole period, with athletics, swimming and wheelchair basketball among the sports that are in action throughout the 10 days.

What are the best events to watch?

There are few surprises in the Paralympic versions of the more traditional events – athletics or swimming, for example – but there are several Paralympic-specific sports which are well worth keeping an eye out for in the schedules.

Boccia: A form of bowls for athletes with extreme cerebral palsy, considered one of the most absorbing Paralympic events

Wheelchair basketball: Perhaps the most famous Paralympic sport, it's skilful, athletic and dramatic

Wheelchair rugby: A must for those who like rough and tumble, with an endless succession of dramatic crashes guaranteed

Goalball: A fascinating team sport for blind athletes that uses a ball with bells embedded inside

Seven-a-side football: With the offside rule jettisoned, this version of football (Which is to be played at the Riverbank, which hosted the Olympic hockey) is invariably thrilling entertainment. There is also a five-a-side version played on a smaller pitch by visually-impaired athletes.

How do all the disability classifications work?

There is a vast array of different classifications - you can see a full list on the official Paralympic website - to ensure that athletes only go up against opponents with a similar level of disability. There are eight categories of physical impairment - ranging from amputations to problems of coordination and lack of muscle power - as well as visual impairment and intellectual impairment categories.

WIthin each sport there is usually a letter which denotes the event - e.g. T for track athletes, S for freestyle swimmers - and a number which denotes the disability. So a T40 competitor is a runner with dwarfism, while an H1 competitor is a handbike cyclist with no leg or trunk function.

Due to the demands of different events, the same athlete might have a different classification in different events. For example a swimmer might find their impairment worse for breaststroke than for backstroke. Equally, not all disabilities qualify a competitor to enter a particular sport.

With all those categories there must be more medals up for grabs?

Yes. There will be 502 gold medals given out, compared to 302 at the main Olympics.

Why are there no Olympic rings?

The IOC and IPC (International Paralympic Committee) are separate organisations, therefore have their different logos. For many years the Paralympics were held in different cities to the Olympics, though that changed in 1988 and now the two events are always bid for simultaneously.

Can I still get tickets?

Most of the 2.5 million available tickets have already been snapped up – a first for the Paralympics – but as with the main Olympics extra tickets will be released throughout the events. You'll have to be lucky for the big events, many of which are totally sold out, among them athletics, swimming and cycling at the velodrome.

But among those still available are 'day passes' for the Excel Arena, which will let you wander in and out to see various different sports all in one day. For those on a budget (and who are near the south coast) there's no charge to watch the sailing events down in Weymouth.

Will I see Brits winning gold?

Almost certainly. Britain has come second in the medal table at the last three Paralympics, winning 42 golds and 60 silvers and bronzes in Beijing. Athletics, swimming, rowing, cycling and dressage are the best bets to see gold. Paralympics GB has a medal target of 103 – one more than the team won in Beijing.

Golden wonders: three of Britain's top Paralympians

Wheelchair tennis - Peter Norfolk

Britain's flag bearer at the opening ceremony, Norfolk will be hoping to mimic Andy Murray's success in the main Olympics. Norfolk won the Olympic titles in 2004 and 2008, and is favourite to win the gold again.

Swimming - Ellie Simmonds

If you're looking for a star then you don't have to go much further than Ellie Simmonds, who is arguably Britain's most well-known Paralympian. She is a double gold medallist from Beijing and is showing no signs of slowing down - she won four gold medals at the IPC Swimming World Championships in Eindhoven two years ago, and broke the 200m medley world record in March at the Acquatics Centre in London. She's undoubtedly an inspirational figure and someone who is already very much in the minds of the general public.

Cycling - Sarah Storey

Sarah Storey is an absolutely tremendous athlete, competing as both a Paralympian and in able-bodied competition in several sports. She won 16 Paralympic medals as a swimmer from 1992 to 2004, before winning double cycling gold in Beijing in 2008. A former national individual pursuit champion whose time set in winning the 2008 Paralympic gold would have put her in the top eight of the able-bodied competition, Storey very nearly qualified for the Olympic team at London 2012. But, despite winning an able-bodied World Cup Team Pursuit gold, she just missed out on a spot in the record-breaking Olympic Team Pursuit side and will be determined to collect Paralympic gold.

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