Athletics is the most widespread sport for blind and partially sighted sportsmen and sportswomen, and is practised in international competitions by more than 70 countries.
Competition is organised according to the IBSA Classification System, using all three classes - B1, B2 and B3. The rules of the International Athletic Associations Federation (IAAF) are followed for a range of traditional Athletics events that is more or less complete except for events such as the hurdles races, the steeplechase, and the pole vault.
Caption: a female Brazilian blind runner crosses the finish line with her guide to win a race.
IAAF Rules are followed in their entirety by the class B3 athletes, but there are necessary modifications in the case of the more severe visual impairments - classes B2 and B1. Some of these modifications involve adjustments to the athletics facilities, or to the way in which they are used. Most of the modifications regulate the way in which these classes may be given assistance (by running guides, for example, or by callers supplying auditory guidance in field events) to enable them to perform in authentic competition.
Athletics competitions for blind and visually impaired athletes have a long history, and since the formation of IBSA in 1981 there has been a regular programme of international competition at a continental and world level.
Athletics is one of the blue riband sports on the programme at the multi-sport IBSA World Games. It has featured at the games since the first edition in Madrid in 1998 and subsequent games in Quebec (2003), Sao Paulo (2007), Antalya (2011), and Seoul (2015).
Caption: a blind athlete in action with his guide runner.
Visually impaired athletes competed in the Paralympic Games in Long Island (1984), Seoul (1988), Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), Beijing (2008), London (2012), and Rio de Janeiro (2016). They are also present at IPC world and regional championships.
In addition, IBSA has conducted Road Race competitions over the full marathon, half-marathon, and 10K distances at continental and world levels. Youth championships in track and field and in cross-country are also part of the programme of the sport.