This week is the main week of the 2016 Paralympic Games being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. These Games, which provide a competitive opportunity for people with disabilities, receive far less attention that the Olympic Games themselves, although the stories of these athletes are often truly inspirational.
What few people know is that Israel, which never hosted an Olympic Competition, took up a dropped torch and welcomed the 1968 Paralympics to Tel Aviv. In 1963, Mexico won its bid to host the 1968 Summer Olympics, and it was understood that this would include the Paralympics. In 1966, however, Mexico determined that they would not be able to meet the technical needs of a second schedule of games. When Mexico backtracked on the Paralympics, Israel jumped in and volunteered.
There were many reasons to be impressed with this short-notice change of venue. Most significantly was the fact that the State of Israel had only been created 20 years earlier in 1948. Nevertheless, they not only arranged a successful multi-event competition, they even added several sports such as Lawn Bowl and Women’s wheelchair basketball.
The opening ceremony for the games was held in Jerusalem, at the Hebrew University Stadium, on November 4, 1968 (not late, considering that the Mexican Summer Olympics took place in late October). The remainder of the games took place in Tel Aviv.
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