The Origin of the Term Handicap in Games and Sports – History of a Concept

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Abstract

Words and concepts may change in time, and this has certainly been the case with the term handicap. From the establishment of modern sports in the middle of the 19th century and up until the middle of the 20th century, handicap had an entirely different meaning within sports. Thus, handicap was understood as a disadvantage imposed on talented contestants to make the competition more equal in sports. Later the term handicap became much closer related to the concepts invalid and crippled than to concept originally employed within sports, With the gradual introduction of the welfare state measures to the political agenda the politicians in Denmark also started to take an interest in invalids and cripples and in 1925 the National Association of the Crippled and Maimed was founded. By the end of the 20 century the term crippled was seen by many as outdated and in 1988 the name was changed to the Danish Association for the Disabled (Dansk Handicap Forbund) and already in 1971 this organization helped to found The Danish Disabled Sports Association (Dansk Handicap Idræts-Forbund). The article tells the story of how the concept of handicap, which originally was an aim to provide equal opportunities, today has become a synonym for disability, while in the Paralympics and competitive disability sports, the original sports term handicap has been replaced by classification.

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