The Deaflympics are an equivalent to the Olympic Games for deaf athletes. The games are sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and competed by deaf athletes. Since the very first Deaflympics in the 1920s, the games are organised by the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (Comite International des Sports des
Just like the Olympic Games, the Deaflympics are held every four years. The first Deaflympics were held as early as 1924 in Paris and also went into history as the first international sport event for disabled athletes. With the exception of the time of the Second World War, the Deaflympics have been held every four years since 1924 with the number of participants growing with each games. In 1924, only 148 deaf athletes from nine European countries competed for bronze, silver and gold medals. But at the most recent 2009 Summer Deaflympics in Taipei, China, there were over 4,000 deaf athletes from 77 countries. The next Deaflympic Summer Games will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2013.
In 1949, the Deaflympic Winter Games were added and are held every four years as well. The exceptions were the 1955 Deaflympic Winter Games in Oberammergau (Germany) that were held two years after the previous Winter Deaflympics and the 2015 Vancouver Winter Deaflympics. These will be held eight years after the last Winter Games for the first time in history due to a fraud scandal with the 2011 Deaflympic Winter Games. They should be hosted by Slovakia but were cancelled due to the fraud with the funds.
To be able to compete at the Deaflympic Games, the athletes must have a hearing loss of minimum 55 db in their better ear. No hearing aids are allowed to be used in the competition which unlike the Olympic Games as well as the Paralympics and the Special Olympics, do not use sounds such as a whistle or starting gun to guide the competitors. Instead, visual tools are used such as a flag wave and flash of light. The spectators of the Deaflympics are expected to wave with their hands instead of cheering or applauding by clapping their hands.
As many as 36 cities and 21 countries hosted the Deaflympics to this day. The majority of the Deaflympics were held in Europe as only five games were held outside Europe. But due to the increased interest in the Deaflympics among both deaf athletes and spectators, the games are expected to be hosted outside Europe more often in the future.