POSTED: August 17th 2016
NewsUpdate

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC should step in with funds to prevent Paralympic Games cancellation

Sir Philip Craven, the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) © Getty Images
Sir Philip Craven, the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) © Getty Images


THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN in RIO DE JANEIRO  / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The ongoing problems of the Rio Olympics have been evident. Despite the charm and eagerness to help of many of the volunteers, the excellence and suitability of some of the stadia, and the temperate weather, which has been neither too hot nor too cold, these have not been Games from an organisational point of view that will be remembered with affection.

Of course, the actual sport at the Olympics always obscures the shortcomings, partly because for the vast majority of the world, they see the Games through television. But for those here on the ground not even the delight of watching the triumphs of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky can take away the frustrations that have been so frequent.

Rio organizers said today that only 12 percent of the tickets for the Paralympics have been sold.

The absence of spectators, who often have not filled the stadia, even for athletics, the centrepiece of the Games, and their abuse of foreign competitors, which even Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has seen fit to admonish, has created an unseemly atmosphere. As well as financial cutbacks, there have been severe difficulties with transportation and administration, which really could only have been expected with Brazil's relative lack of experience in hosting international events in many of the Olympic sports.

And now comes the worry about the Paralympics, (motto: A New World), which are due to begin on September 7. London set a particular high for the recognition of disabled sport and one fears that the Paralympics will fail even to approach the same standard.

It is believed that money that was previously allocated to the Paralympics has been used to shore up the Olympics budget. Eduardo Paes, the Mayor of Rio, has agreed to allocate a further $55 million "to ensure the success of the Paralympics", adding that it would be a "shame" if those did not take place, using, of course, the facilities for the Games.

However, he has said that it will only do this -and don't forget the Brazilian economy once booming, has been in severe decline ever since it got the Games in 2009--if the Rio organisers open their financial books so that they could be examined. Last week, a Brazilian court, in fact, forbade the organisers from using any further public funds, unless they did this -which they have been reluctant to do.

Of particular and immediate concern is the reported failure to give the travel grants of about 60 of the estimated 170 foreign countries, which are sending teams to the Paralympics. Sir Philip Craven, the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), has urged the Rio organisers for transparency and to allow their financial records to be scrutinised.

Sir Philip has also proposed further cuts in the budget, provided this does not severely damage the experience of the athletes themselves. Having observed the frequent absence of big crowds at the Olympics ---despite this country having a population of 180 million -he must be further concerned by the probability that the Paralympics may frequently be staged before small numbers.

No one can do anything about this. If the Brazilians aren't interested in the Paralympics, they won't come. But for all of those Paralympic athletes, who have been training for years for this event, as well as for a change in the social attitudes of the country hosting the events, it is essential that the Paralympics go ahead.

If there is a shortfall in the budget, the IOC should step in and use some of its immense reserves to ensure they take place. In 2001, it agreed with the IPC that in future the host city for the Olympics would automatically be the host city for the Paralympics. It therefore has some responsibility for their success. Now is the time for it to exercise this responsibility.

** JOHN GOODBODY will cover the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.


Keywords · Olympics · Rio 2016 · John Goodbody


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