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2012 Paralympics kick off with the first day of action

Mostafa Shahbazi Yajlou of Iran competes during the men's group B goalball match between China and Iran on Aug. 30.
Mostafa Shahbazi Yajlou of Iran competes during the men's group B goalball match between China and Iran on Aug. 30.Scott Heavey / Getty Images
Tao Zheng of China celebrates winning the men's 100m backstroke final on Aug. 30.
Tao Zheng of China celebrates winning the men's 100m backstroke final on Aug. 30.Ian Macnicol / Getty Images

Jessica Long of the United States competes in the women's 100m butterfly - S8 heat 2 on Aug. 30.
Jessica Long of the United States competes in the women's 100m butterfly - S8 heat 2 on Aug. 30.Clive Rose / Getty Images

Members of the Italian team look on as Spain's Alejandro Zarzuela Beltran, right, attempts a shot during their preliminary men's group A wheelchair basketball match, Aug. 30.
Members of the Italian team look on as Spain's Alejandro Zarzuela Beltran, right, attempts a shot during their preliminary men's group A wheelchair basketball match, Aug. 30.Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images

The action of the London 2012 Paralympic Games got started on Thursday. According to the Associated Press, athletes will be competing in 20 different sports, including archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball and swimming.

A sign reading
A sign readingHarry Engels / Getty Images

NBC News reports:

The event was founded in 1948 to help rehabilitate injured British veterans returning from the Second World War, though many Americans remain unaware that it exists. (There's also a tendency to confuse it with the Special Olympics, which is unrelated.) Paralympic athletes compete despite impairments including amputations, blindness, cerebral palsy and mobility disabilities. Read the full story.

Natalia Partyka of Poland serves during her women's singles C10 table tennis classification match against Umran Ertis of Turkey Aug. 30. Partyka has won gold medals in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics, and she is also the only female athlete to compete in both the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Natalia Partyka of Poland serves during her women's singles C10 table tennis classification match against Umran Ertis of Turkey Aug. 30. Partyka has won gold medals in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics, and she is also the only female athlete to compete in both the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.Toby Melville / Reuters

Mostafa Shahbazi Yajlou of Iran competes during the men's group B goalball match between China and Iran on Aug. 30.
Mostafa Shahbazi Yajlou of Iran competes during the men's group B goalball match between China and Iran on Aug. 30.Scott Heavey / Getty Images

Prostheses and crutches of athletes are seen at the Aquatics Center during the swimming competitions of the London 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Britain, Aug. 30.
Prostheses and crutches of athletes are seen at the Aquatics Center during the swimming competitions of the London 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Britain, Aug. 30.Kerim Okten / EPA