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Paralympic Summer Games -- Toronto 1976

The 1976 Paralympic Games were attended by six countries with 1,657 athletes, 253 of whom were women. Several countries had withdrawn from the Games, due to the participation of South Africa. For the first time, 261 amputees and 187 visually impaired athletes were included in the program as well as in several new events.

The task of organization became more complicated, simply because more sport classifications were involved than ever before. Also, the accommodation of athletes with differing disabilities posed new challenges. It was becoming clear that an international body was needed, which would oversee and organize a multidisability Paralympic Games, coordinating between a host organizing committee and the governing International Federations.

The Canadian Organizing Committee was able to raise funds from private donors and the Province of Ontario. Both the provincial government of Ontario and the Borough of Etobicoke helped to match the funds raised by the Organizing Committee.

As suitable lodging could not be arranged in the immediate area of the events, school buses were hired and loading docks were constructed to transport the athletes and staff from the event venues to their accommodation. Disability groups were housed separately—wheelchair athletes at York University and the other groups at the University of Toronto and the Institute for the Blind.

For the first time, television coverage of the Paralympics was broadcast daily to more than 600,000 viewers in the Southern Ontario area. At the Opening Ceremony on 3 August, some 24,000 spectators cheered on the athletes at the Woodbine race track.

With the entry of other disability groups, there were many new events. In wheelchair racing, new distances of 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m were added. Rifle Shooting became a medal event, following demonstrations at previous International Stoke Mandeville Games. Goalball, a demonstration event at the 1972 Paralympics in Heidelberg, was also featured as a medal event.

Canadian Arnie Boldt, an 18-year-old single-leg amputee, gave a memorable performance, underlining the first-time participation of amputee athletes. He won the High Jump with 1.86m and the Long Jump with 2.96m, and was honored at the Closing Ceremony as the outstanding performer of the Games.

Remarkable performances were also turned in by American wheelchair athletes. Among these champions was David Kiley, who set new world records in the 100m with 19 seconds, the 800m with 2:47 minutes and the 1500m with 5:32 minutes. Kiley was also on the USA Basketball team that defeated Israel 59:46 to take the gold.

Swimming brought many outstanding performances in all disability groups. The Netherlands stamped its strength in the sport by taking 36 golds in Swimming.

The Closing Ceremony on 11 August was held at the Centennial Park Stadium before a crowd of 5,000, ending a colorful nine-day event.

(Credit: IPC. Click here for further information.)

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