The 13th Paralympic Summer Games, held in Beijing, China, in 2008, were a spectacle unparalleled in the history of the Paralympics. The Games provided competition for 3,951 athletes from 146 countries, including six nations for the first time. This was the largest ever number of countries represented at the Paralympics.
There were 20 sports, with Para-rowing making its Games debut.
The Games attracted the largest Paralympic crowds to date – almost 3.5 million people in total. More than half paid for the privilege, with another 1.6 million tickets given to children and education and community groups.
The venues for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, particularly the ‘bird’s nest‘ for athletics and the ‘water cube‘ for swimming, were attractions in themselves and were filled to capacity night after night, creating a magical atmosphere. An added bonus for the home crowds was the performance of Chinese athletes, who extended their dominance from the previous Games, winning more than twice as many medals as the second ranked country, Great Britain.
The 2008 Australian Paralympic Team was supported by a large medical/recovery contingent of 23 practitioners including doctors, physiotherapists, soft tissue therapists, a nurse, psychologist, dietician and recovery specialist.
Australia was the only competing nation with a dedicated recovery centre in the Paralympic Village. In the recovery centre, athletes were provided with ice baths, contrast showers, cold showers, compression, stretching/active sessions and massage. It was a step up from the limited services offered to the team in a basement garage in Athens in 2004.
Recovery practices like these were standard by top-tier nations at the 2012 Paralympic Summer Games in London, England, but Australia led the way in Athens and then Beijing.
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