The athletes of the Deaflympics set records and break barriers every time they participate in the Summer and Winter Deaflympics.
The first games, known as the International Silent Games, were held in 1924 in Paris. They 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 us as outcasts, Monsieur Rubens-Alcais envisioned the international sports event as the best answer. Antoine Dresse, a young deaf Belgian, was instrumental in helping him accomplish his dream.
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.
Misconceptions about deaf people persist to this day in many parts of society and around the world. But inroads are being made in the battle against prejudice, as more nations and individuals join in the Deaflympic movement and more games are held.
The Silent Games were the first ever for any group of people with disabilities. 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), CISS, which was later renamed Le Comité International des Sports des Sourds (The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf), ICSD.
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.
Participants in the first games arrived from nine (9) European countries. Today, the number of national federations in the ICSD membership has reached 104. Among relative newcomers enjoying the benefits of this worldwide network of sports and social inclusion are such geographically disparate countries as Jordan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Seychelles, and Yemen.
Twenty one (21) Summer Games have been held since the initial Paris games with 148 athletes. No games were held between 1939 and 1949 because of World War II.
The first Winter Games were held in Seefeld, Austria, 1949, with 33 athletes from five countries.
The first games outside of Europe were the Summer Games held in Washington DC in the United States, in 1965.