The athletes of the Deaflympics set records and break barriers every time they participate in the Summer and Winter Deaflympics.
Not only do these new records set apply to athletic feats. Since the debut of the first deaf international games, records were also continually broken for the number of nations participating in the Deaflympics as well as the number of new sports added.
The first games, known as the International Silent Games, were held in 1924 in Paris with athletes from nine European nations participating. The games were the brainchild of Eugène Rubens-Alcais, himself deaf and President of the French Deaf Sports Federation.
At a time when societies everywhere viewed deaf people as intellectually inferior, linguistically impoverished and often treated as outcasts, Monsieur Rubens-Alcais envisioned the international sports event as the best answer to prove that the deaf were more than what they were viewed. Antoine Dresse, a young deaf Belgian, was instrumental in helping him accomplish his dream.
The Silent Games were the first ever for any group of people with disabilities. Furthermore, it was the secondly created internationally-competed games of any kind. The modern-day Olympics was the first.
After the initial Paris Games, deaf sporting leaders assembled at a café and established Le Comité International des Sports Silencieux (the International Committee of Silent Sports), commonly known as the CISS. Recently, the CISS was renamed Le Comité International des Sports des Sourds (The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf), the ICSD.
The competition at the games immediately became the social context for countries to deliberate about similarities and differences in the welfare of their deaf people. Over the years, games have been awarded with the aim of spreading these deliberations into new areas. As a result, many of the misconceptions about deaf people were greatly reduced in many parts of society and around the world. Furthermore, inroads are continually being made in the battle against prejudice. The break-down speed of the prejudice has increased as more nations and individuals join in the Deaflympic movement.
The Deaflympics are distinguished from all other IOC-sanctioned games by the fact that they are organized and run exclusively by members of the community they serve. Only deaf people are eligible to serve on the ICSD board and executive bodies.
Today, the number of national federations in the ICSD membership has reached 116, a big difference from the original 9 countries almost 100 years ago! Among recent newcomers enjoying the benefits of this worldwide network of sports and social inclusion include geographically disparate countries such as Jordan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Seychelles, and Yemen.
Twenty three (23) Summer Games, have been held consistently at 4-year intervals since the initial Paris games. The only exceptions were the cancellation of 1943 and 1947 Games because of World War II.
Posted on 19 May 2004