POSTED: August 20th 2016

Olympics: Rio 2016 Paralympics will go forward facing toughest financial situation ever

(Left) Sir Philip Craven, head of the IPC, has been a strong defender of the Paralympics and even upheld a Russian team ban over the recent doping scandals © Getty Images
(Left) Sir Philip Craven, head of the IPC, has been a strong defender of the Paralympics and even upheld a Russian team ban over the recent doping scandals © Getty Images

LAURA WALDEN (USA) / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) confirmed today that the Rio Paralympics would go ahead as planned but there would be extreme budget cuts and changes to the original plan.

The Rio 2016 organizing committee was not able to meet the agreed requirements they originally committed to when they won the bid and this was a bid blow only 19 days prior to the opening ceremony. However the IPC still believes that the event can have a big effect on Brazilian society.

Sir Philip Craven, IPC President and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, said, "I am fully confident Rio 2016 will be the best Games ever in terms of athletic performance. You only have to look at some of the achievements from Para athletes over the last two years to realise that we will witness some truly spectacular sport.

"I believe the performances of the Para athletes will act as a catalyst for social change.  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."

"Never before in the 56 year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this," said Sir Philip.

"Since becoming aware of the full scale of the problem, we have focussed all of our efforts on finding solutions to the problems.

"At the IPC we are a relatively small but united organisation.  It's in our Paralympic DNA to see obstacles as an opportunity to do things differently and that's what we are doing here.  We are problem solvers by nature and fight for what we believe in."

Financial injection

Rio Mayor Edoardo Paes has endeavored to come up with an additional BRL 150 million of funding and worked with the Federal Government to bring in up to BRL 100 million of sponsorship for the Games from state run companies.

Sir Philip noted, "Mayor Paes has always been a huge advocate of the Paralympics and the seismic impact they can have in terms of driving social inclusion.  He saw what the London 2012 Paralympics did for the British capital, and now he wants that same transformation to take place here in Rio.

"On Thursday we had a meeting with the interim President Michel Temer who confirmed his attendance at the Opening Ceremony.  I think his actions in the meeting speak volumes of his commitment to the Paralympics. Not only did we hold productive talks, but he picked up the phone on a number of occasions to get things moving which gave us huge confidence.

"A number of state run companies have since signed contracts to sponsor the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, bringing in much needed money to the Organising Committee, whilst the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Defence have informed us that the security forces currently in place for the Olympics will remain for the Paralympics."

Support Grants

However the organizing committee still needs to pay the first installment of the National Paralympic Committee support grants that were due to be paid to all 165 participating countries at the end of July.

This could impact the countries' ability to participate at Rio 2016 and some athletes were even set to arrive as early as August 31st. The Paralympics are slated to be held September 7-18.

Sir Philip explained, "Currently we have around 10 countries who, even if the grants are paid, may struggle to cover the cost of their travel to the Games.  The IPC is working with them to find solutions and ensure their participation here in Rio

"We want full participation here.  We want all eligible countries to send their athletes to the Games.  It's what the athletes deserve and it is what the athletes want after years of training and dedication," he added.

Massive cutbacks

Cuts will include a downsizing of the workforce to run the Games and transport services, closing a number of venue media centers, and creating more compact venues.

Sports will be moved and Deodoro Olympic Park will be closed and dismantled.

Sir Philip Craven added, "These cuts are on top of the ones we, together with the IOC, have already made in the last 12 months and are likely to impact nearly every stakeholder attending the Games.

"We are working desperately hard to protect athlete services, especially within the field of play.  They have dedicated their lives to reaching these Games and we will do our upmost to try and maintain the service levels and scope that they expect at a Paralympic Games."

Lagging ticket sales have greatly impacted the situation and the very low turnout of spectators at the Games raises concerns on attendance.

Sir Philip spoke about what they are doing to combat this, "We now hope a new promotional campaign will engage the Brazilian public and lead to strong crowds for all sports.

"At this point it is difficult for us to expect the full venues that we saw in Beijing or London, or expect to see in Tokyo in four years' time.  However, we hope the passion of the Brazilian people and their desire to support and see Brazilian athletes win medals will see them turn out en-masse.  People power could really determine the outcome of these Games."

It is a damper on an amazing unparalleled sports event that soared in London 2012 and the IPC has been working hard to maintain the momentum of growth and interest in the Paralympics. Strong leadership will get them through it and with Sir Philip at the helm they they couldn't be in better hands.

**LAURA WALDEN has over twenty-five years of experience in the Olympic Movement, formerly at the European Olympic Committees with SportEurope under former IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge and IOC Member Mario Pescante. She worked with the Rome 2004 and Turin 2006 Olympic bids and also managed PR & media for Dr. Jacques Rogge during his campaign for the presidency.

Keywords · Olympics · Rio 2016 · Paralympics

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