Sports

Rio Paralympics 2016: Brazil set for opening ceremony following troubled preparations

rio-para
Japanese athletes explore the Paralympic village in Rio
The Rio Paralympics will get under way later with a colourful opening ceremony watched by millions worldwide, following troubled preparations.
The build-up featured low ticket sales, a funding crisis, Russia’s ban and criticism of athlete classifications.
But the focus will be on the Maracana Stadium from 22:15 BST, when thousands of spectators will experience the parade of more than 4,300 athletes.
Equestrian rider Lee Pearson will be flagbearer for GB’s 264 athletes.
“We’re on the rise, we’ve had great difficulties here, but this is just showing what this movement is about,” said International Paralympics Committee (IPC) president Sir Philip Craven.
“These are the people’s Games and we’re going to have a fabulous time here.”
But Sir Philip admitted a shortfall in funding, which had until recently jeopardised the viability of the Games, had been a massive concern.
“It was about four or five weeks ago we started to realise the mess the organising committee were in,” he told BBC Sport.
“I think the organising committee in Rio were in a state of stress.
“I averaged three hours sleep in 21 days. On the last day, on 22 August, before I left for a break back in Britain, I didn’t eat for 19 hours and that caused me to pass out on the plane for 15 minutes before it took off.
“I woke up and thought ‘what’s the bother about, I feel fine now’. But it was a really stressful time.”
What have been the problems?
Funding
The biggest concern for the Games was around a shortfall in funding, with the struggling Brazilian economy and low ticket sales meaning Rio’s organising committee had not raised enough money to fund the event.
Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes had to secure an additional £36m of funding and £24m in sponsorship from state-run companies, meaning the Paralympics will go ahead, but with cuts to the workforce and transport services as well as the closure of some media centres.
Tickets
Ticket sales have improved, with 1.6 million sold of the 2.5 million available, after only 12% had been bought just three weeks ago.
The London 2012 Paralympics sold a record 2.7 million tickets.
Prince Harry has made a donation to the #FillTheSeats initiative, which is working with Paralympics organisers to buy 10,000 tickets for local children.
Russian doping
There was also the ongoing saga of whether Russian athletes would be able to compete, after a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Association found evidence of widespread doping across Russian sport.
Unlike the Olympics, which allowed individual sport federations to decide if Russians could compete at Rio 2016, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has applied a blanket ban, which Russian officials unsuccessfully appealed against.
Athlete classifications
And concerns have been raised about whether the system used to determine the classifications athletes compete in is being manipulated to boost medal chances.
British T37 200m sprinter Bethany Woodward, who has cerebral palsy and will not be competing in Rio, has criticised the British Paralympic Association (BPA), saying “they’ve brought in people who are not like me in terms of disability”.
BPA boss Tim Hollingsworth said no advantage was being sought for Britain’s 264 athletes in Rio.
The IPC says the system is always under review, while UK Athletics said it will look at classifications after Rio, standard practice for the body after every Games.
Who are the big hitters?
China are the Paralympics superpower, having topped the medal table at London 2012 with 231 medals, 95 of which were gold.
Russia came second four years ago, with 36 gold medals, but will not be in Rio because of their ban, giving Great Britain, third in 2012 with 34 golds, a great chance of moving up a place.
Among the global stars in Rio are Brazilian swimmer Daniel Dias, American swimmer Elizabeth Marks, Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic table tennis player Melissa Tapper and the Netherlands’ ‘Blade Babe’ Marlou van Rhijn.
Source: BBC

Facebook Comments

Related Articles