The 2004 Summer Paralympics were held in Athens, Greece, from September 17 to September 28. The twelfth Paralympic Games, an estimated 4,000 athletes took part in the Athens programme, with ages ranging from 11 to 66. Paralympic events had already taken place during the 2004 Summer Olympics as demonstration sports - women's 800 m and men's 1500 m wheelchair races. These races were open to able-bodied people and were without disability classification - as such, they did not form part of the official Paralympic programme. See Wheelchair racing at the 2004 Summer Olympics for more details.
Athletes with learning difficulties were excluded from the games due to the difficulties in testing for and classifying these disabilities. The exclusion was introduced after the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, the first games with events exclusively for people with learning difficulties (and the second with such athletes), after it was found that the majority of the Spanish basketball team were not disabled. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stated that the exclusion would continue until there are sufficient tests for the disabilities and a way to measure the effect they have on a sport. Exhibition matches for these categories were featured in the Games in basketball and table tennis, and the Special Olympics remains the major sporting event specifically designed for athletes with learning difficulties.
This Games Motto : Great Athletes. Great Performances
A total of 1567 medals were awarded during the Athens games: 519 gold, 516 silver, and 532 bronze. China topped the medal count with more gold medals, more silver medals, and more medals overall than any other nation. In the table below, the ranking sorts by the number of gold medals earned by a nation (in this context a nation is an entity represented by a National Paralympic Committee).
Among the top individual medal winners was Mayumi Narita of Japan, who took seven golds and one bronze medal in swimming, setting six world records in the process and bringing her overall Paralympic gold medal total to fifteen. Chantal Petitclerc of Canada won five golds and set three world records in wheelchair racing, while Swedish shooter Jonas Jacobsson took four gold medals. France's Béatrice Hess won her nineteenth and twentieth Paralympic gold medals in swimming. Swimmer Trischa Zorn of the United States won just one medal, a bronze, but it was her 55th ever Paralympic medal. She retained her position as the most successful Paralympian of all times.
The opening ceremony for the 2004 Summer Paralympics took place on September 17, 2004. The show started with children passing on knowledge and raising their lights to the sky. This was a reference to Hippocrates, who transferred knowledge to the children. A 26 meters tall olive tree (with more than 195,000 leaves) symbolising life stood in the middle of the arena. The opening ceremony also featured a performance with human drama, with light and with music, in an allegory about obstacles and limits. The Parade of Delegations was accompanied by the music of French composers Yves Stepping and Jean Christophe. The music told the legend of Hephaestos, god of fire and son of Zeus and Hera. An athlete from Turkmenistan propelled himself around the stadium by doing somersaults. Greece, the home team, received a strong cheer. After that, fireworks erupted at the stadium. There were 150 local support staff involved and 400 volunteers. The children were from ages 8 to 17, coming from Australia, France, Spain, Greece and Germany. The Games were officially declared opened by Greek president Costis Stephanopoulos and Phil Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee. They were accompanied by the head of the organizing committee Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who told the athletes and the audience: "The Olympic flame illuminates athletes. Many of you will leave Athens with medals, but all of you will leave as champions." Phil Craven quoted Democritus in his speech: "Two thousand years ago, Democritus said 'To win oneself is the first and best of all victories.' This holds true for all athletes, but especially for Paralympians. Recognising and cultivating your unique abilities and mastering challenges - you set standards and give expression for many people, young and old, around the world." The Olympic flame was lit by Greek athlete Georgios Toptsis.
The 2004 Summer Paralympics included 19 sports. New events featured in the Games were five-a-side blind football, women's sitting volleyball, and quads wheelchair tennis.
Results for individual events can be found on the relevant page.