The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the IPC global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the summer and Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for nine sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World Championships and other competitions. The IPC is committed to enabling Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to developing sport opportunities for all persons with a disability from the beginner to elite level. In addition, the IPC aims to promote the Paralympic values, which include courage, determination, inspiration and equality.
Founded on 22 September 1989, the IPC is an international non-profit organization formed and run by 170 National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) from five regions and four disability specific international sports federations (IOSDs). The IPC Headquarters and its management team are located in Bonn, Germany. The organization has a democratic constitution and structure, made up of elected representatives.
Whereas other international sports organizations for athletes with a disability are either limited to one disability group or to one specific sport, the IPC – as an umbrella organization – represents several sports and disabilities. The national sports organizations, which created the IPC, are convinced that the future of sport for persons with a disability lies in bringing together athletes with different abilities to hold joint competitions.
As time went by, multi-disability competitions developed, which later became included in the Paralympic Games. The Paralympics were growing fast and became important international sport events. The need to govern the Games more efficiently and to speak with one voice to the IOC resulted in the foundation of the ICC, the “International Co-ordination Committee of World Sports Organizations for the Disabled” in 1982. Only ten years later, the ICC was to be replaced by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). It was the strong wish of the member nations to form this organization with a democratic constitution and elected representatives. The IPC was founded in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1989.
The Winter Paralympics in Lillehammer in 1994 were the first Paralympic Games under the management of IPC. Today, we look back on a history of the organization, which is rapidly developing and presently numbers around 165 member nations. The Movement’s growth is best exemplified through the phenomenal rise of the Paralympic Games. More countries competed at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics (3951 athletes, 146 countries) than in the Munich 1972 Olympic Games. In Beijing, the degree of media coverage was unprecedented. With interest in and acceptance for sport for persons with a disability growing, the expansion of the Paralympics is most likely to continue in the future.
The word “Paralympic” derives from the Greek preposition “para” (“beside” or “alongside”) and the word “Olympics” (the Paralympics being the parallel Games to the Olympics). The word Paralympic was originally a pun combining ‘paraplegic’ and ‘Olympic’, however with the inclusion of other disability groups and the close associations with the Olympic Movement, it now represents ‘parallel’ and ‘Olympic’ to illustrate how the two movements exist side by side.
The IPC is currently composed of a General Assembly (its highest decision-making body, made up of the National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), International Federations (IFs), Regional Organizations, four IOSDs and Sports), a Governing Board, a Management Team in Bonn and various Standing Committees and Councils. From 1989 (when the IPC was founded) to 2001, Dr. Robert D. Steadward held the office of IPC President. In December 2001, after the maximum of three terms in office, he was succeeded by the former Paralympian and President of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, Sir Philip Craven, MBE .
In 2005, the Executive Committee was replaced by a Governing Board whose members were directly elected by the IPC General Assembly. There are four advisory Councils in addition to several Standing Committees. They are governed under a new IPC Constitution and a new electoral system. This will lead the nine IPC sports towards more self-sustainability and eventually independence from the IPC. In addition to the NPCs and IOSDs, the sports and regional bodies will also become full members of the IPC.