Following the conclusion of the Olympics in Rio, the Paralympics will kick off on September 7. But this year the event is facing major budget cuts which will affect the amount of available venues, workforce, transport and even the amount of teams that can participate.
“Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this,” said IPC president Sir Philip Craven.
The IPC claims that the organizing committees in Rio did not raise enough money for the Para athletes—and now there are only 19 days left until the Opening Ceremony. It’s a race to starting line.
Due to Brazil’s harsh economic circumstances and the low amount of ticket sales for the event (they only managed to sell 12%), these organizations failed to pay the travel grants to all of the participating countries that were due by the end of July. The grants have now been secured, but since the payment is late as many as 10 countries may struggle to get their teams to Rio.
“We want full participation here. We want all eligible countries to send their athletes to the Games,” said Craven. “It’s what the athletes deserve and it is what the athletes want after years of training and dedication.”
The IPC is also working with Rio’s Mayor Paes to help secure an additional BRL 150 million (about $46 million) of funding and they are meeting with the Federal Government to get additional sponsorship for the Games from state run companies.
British Para athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson says she is fortunate that Great Britain has the resources to support their athletes in Rio. She’s won 11 medals at the Games and has seen the evolution of the competition since 1988. One of her biggest concern is that the event runs smoothly.
“As much as London was amazing, we really hoped Rio would be another step up,” she told the BBC. “They have successful teams, media sponsorship, but when they bid for the Games [Brazil was] in a different financial and political position.
“Part of me thinks the IPC has been quite bold in going public to put pressure on the government to step up and deliver the Games they want to deliver. But what really worries athletes is events running on time and transport to the venues. Those are the bits they need to concentrate on right now to make sure it happens.”
The IPC is also hoping to boost the excitement surrounding the event to help boost ticket sales among the people of Brazil. In London 2012, Brazil won 212 gold medals and this year the team has a good chance of placing a top five finish in the medals table for the first time in history. In addition, Craven claims that the Games will inspire others and create positive societal change.
“I believe the performances of the Para athletes will act as a catalyst for social change,” said Craven. “The Paralympics have a strong track record for changing global attitudes towards people with an impairment, and are now widely regarded as the world’s number one sporting event for driving positive societal change and social inclusion. The opportunity we have here to make Rio, Brazil, Latin America and the world a more equitable place for all does not come around very often, so we have to grab it with both hands.”