Seoul 1988: The First Modern Paralympics Games

Date 16-Mar-2018
The Paralympic movement is back in the Republic of Korea exactly 30 years after the Seoul Paralympic Summer Games. Although the Paralympic Games have been held since 1960, the
Seoul 1988 edition is considered by many as revolutionary. They are widely recognized as the Games that made the Paralympics what they are today.


 The first participated at the Summer Paralympic Games in 1968 and has been actively participated in every Winter Paralympic Games since 1992.  There are 49 nations participating at this year’s Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, the highest participation rate from around the world since the first game held in 1976.  The Seoul Paralympics Summer Games of 1988 were the first ever real collaboration of work between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). This partnership has been felt firstly with the “Paralympic” term’s creation, directly coming from the “Olympic” term. Also, except for Tokyo in 1964, it was the first time that the Paralympic Games were held right after the Olympic Games, and furthermore in the very same city. The Paralympians could then benefit from the expertise of the workforce in place, and also they could enjoy a great part of the privileges and buildings than their Olympic
The 1988 Summer Paralympic Games in Seoul were the first Paralympics in 24 years to take place in the same city as the Olympic Games, and it was the first time, the term “Paralympic” came into official use.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) collaborated the first time to partner at the Seoul Paralympics Summer Games in 1988.  In order to better cater the Paralympians’ needs, a new Paralympic Village consisting 10 apartment blocks were built, to provide catering, recreation, banking, post office facilities, medical centres, religious centres and a shopping mall.  

A spectacular event

The committee of the Seoul Paralympic Summer Games also introduced a step that would mark Paralympism for subsequent editions. Whereas previous editions generally took place in almost indifference in the host country, the 1988 edition have been promoted as important as the Olympic Games. By doing so, 75 000 spectators were invited in the Seoul Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony. Schools are religious organizations have answered to the call, and gave a warmly welcome to the 3057 athletes. The competitions were also widely followed by the public who were there in person, or in front of their television set. Those first Paralympic Games of the modern era have held the bar high for the subsequent editions regarding the welcoming and the promotion for the athletes and their accomplishments. 

The organizing committee of the Seoul Paralympic Summer Games promoted it as important as the Olympic Games.  There were more than 75,000 people including schools and religious organizations along with a record of 3,057 athletes from 61 nations have participated at the Opening Ceremony of the Seoul Paralympic Summer Games.  The Opening Ceremony of the Winter Paralympic Games this year at PyeongChang was curated by Moontae Lee, a former KBS TV director and head of a cultural organization.  Renowned South Korean sledge hockey player Minsu Han, climbed up the ramp in a spectacular fashion with the torch on his back, passing the flame to final touch bears Soonseok Seo and Eunjung Kim to light the start of the games.

The Korean Trace

For more than 15 years, the Seoul’s footprint has been widely felt throughout the Paralympic movement in a visual way. The 1988 Summer Games’ logo has instantly become the official logo of the Paralympic movement, with its five taegeuks (The semicircles that we can find inside the South Korean flag) that recalled the Olympic logo. Three taegeuks formed a new version of the logo in 1994. This logo has been used until the Athens Paralympics Summer Games in 2004.

The 1988 Summer Paralympic Games’ symbol with five taegeuks – the pattern also found in the South Korean flag – in the colours of the Olympic rings representing five oceans and the five continents were used from 1988 until 1994.  The emblem used in the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Games symbolizes a world open to everyone, combing the image of ice and snow, athletes and people from around the world coming together hand in hand to PyeongChang.  The emblem was taken the motif of Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) – the first consonant used in the character for “Chang”.