IM this article to a friend!

December 29, 2004

Deaflympics lowdown

From: BBC Sport, UK - Dec 29, 2004

Elite athletes from across the globe descend on Melbourne in January for the biggest event in the deaf sporting calendar, the Deaflympics.

Over 3,500 athletes from 75 countries are set to take part in 12 days of gripping action, starting on 5 January..

Never heard of the Deaflympics? Need to swot up on one of the largest multi-sport events in the world?

Here is everything you need to know about the 20th deaf and hard of hearing Summer Games in Melbourne.


Believe it or not, the Deaflympics have been regularly held for 80 years and are the second oldest multi-sport event after the Olympics.

When: 5-16 January 2005
Where: Melbourne
No. of athletes: 3,500+
No. of sports: 15
(GB are competing in 8 events)
Athletics, badminton, basketball, cycling, football, handball, orienteering, shooting, swimming, table tennis, tennis, tenpin bowling, volleyball (& beach), water polo, wrestling

The first ever major competition for disabled athletes, the Games were first held in 1924 in Paris.

Originally known as the Silent Games, just 145 athletes from nine European nations took part in the inaugural event.

The Games have come a long way since those humble beginnings with 2,405 athletes from 71 countries participating in the 2001 Rome Games, which was also the first time the Games became officially known as the Deaflympics.

For a contender to be eligible, they need to have a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in the better ear. And athletes cannot use any hearing aid when they are competing.


Paris - 1924
Amsterdam - 1928
Nuremberg - 1931
London - 1935
Stockholm - 1939
Copenhagen - 1949
Brussels - 1953
Milan - 1957
Helsinki - 1961
Washington DC - 1965

You may have heard of the Deaflympic Games, but many unfortunately have not, unlike the Paralympics which are advertised to a much greater extent.

The profile of the Games is rapidly growing although over the years there have a much lower budget than the Paralympics.

Advertising, the quality of the equipment and the numbers of onlookers supporting their teams in the stadiums has always been less than satisfactory.

However, slowly (and finally) more people are recognising how important this event is, and the talent involved.


Deaf athletes have competed against hearing opponents in major competitions over the years, such as the Olympics, but the Deaflympics provides them with a unique arena specially adapted to their needs

Belgrade - 1969
Malmo - 1973
Bucharest - 1977
Cologne - 1981
Los Angeles - 1985
Christchurch - 1989
Sofia - 1993
Copenhagen - 1997
Rome - 2001
Melbourne - 2005
Taipei - 2009

Naturally they cannot rely on their hearing to listen out for a starter's gun or whistle, nor can they communicate in the same way as their fellow hearing athletes, so the only consideration is to make auditory cues visible.

Because their disability is a communication barrier rather than a physical restriction, they are not eligible to compete in the Paralympics, which is only open to physically-disabled athletes, such as wheelchair competitors and amputees.

This is why the Games are so important, and why deaf Frenchman Eugene Rubens-Alcais managed to convince six official national confederations to accept and take part in the global Silent Games.

The International Committee of Silent Sports (CISS) was then established and formed a union between all deaf sporting federations and heralded the first Games in 1924.


Britain has experienced many highs and lows over the years. In 1989 in Christchurch, Team GB won a record 27 medals, including 10 golds, but at the last Games in Rome, they finished with just six medals and failed to win a single gold.

GB are set to take part in eight events in Melbourne, and heading out to Australia are some promising contenders.

For the first time, women's football has been introduced and the British team are highly fancied after winning the European Championships last year.

Also, GB has high hopes in the tennis, swimming, and athletics, in which two current world champions will be competing.

Story from BBC SPORT:

Published: 2004/12/29 18:35:51 GMT