POSTED: August 24th 2016

NEIL WILSON: The Olympics owes the Paralympics a debt

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

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) While Rio 2016 will at all times adopt fiscally responsible and conservative policies, the delivery of the Paralympic Games...will be the lead consideration in relation to all financial decisions.

Not my words. Those were the words used in Rio 2016's bid document in 2009 when persuading the IOC to grant it the right to become the first city in South America to host an Olympic and Paralympic Games.

If they and the IOC need reminding the promise is made in Item 10.12.1. It has proved to be a promise unfulfilled. Or a lie, if you prefer.

Like the other promise on full stadiums to "more fully match supply and demand".

So here we are as I write just two weeks away from the opening of the Paralympic Games in Rio, and the most optimistic guide is that 15% of tickets are sold. And remember how the percentage of pre-sales for the Olympic Games there this month never converted to the number of butts on seats. They were many stay-aways.

The great triumph of the Paralympics Games was in London four years ago when stadia were full and the Paras could reasonably be said to have come of age in the country where they were first held at a rehabilitation hospital for the disabled. Now, next time out, the Paralympics are again the poor relations.

An Australian investigation claims that money earmarked for the Paralympic Games was diverted at the last moment to cover the cost of rehabilitating the Olympic Athletes Village where poor plumbing, unsafe electrical wiring and sewerage problems threatened its inhabitants.

To keep the show on the road, the Deadora sporting hub due to host hockey and table tennis has been abandoned, while travel schedules and the number of volunteers have been slashed. And because Rio has not paid the travel grants it promised the IPC fears that as many as ten national teams may not be able to afford to attend.

An NGO Leonard Cheshire Disability spoke out last week. Tiziana Oliva, its international director, called it a 'hammer blow' to the Paralympic movement.

Sir Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, says he attended a meeting at which Brazil's interim president Michel Temer was phoning around to raise additional funds. Some state-owned companies were strong-armed to increase sponsorship.

One of those calls could have gone to Vladimir Putin, president of Russia. No doubt he would have been happy to be seen as the shining knight rescuing the event. But no, true to the integrity that Sir Philip has shown throughout Russia remains banned for its state-sponsored doping system.

The IPC needs all the help it can get right now but not that kind of help. Leave compromise and appeasement to the IOC. Sir Philip is not a man for turning.

When the Russian Paralympic Committee took an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport - but declined to bring with it any evidence at all - the IPC stood firm. And CAS stood with it. The IOC again stood shamed.

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko said it was "beyond belief". He said it was not in the "legal domain" and "more political than legal".  Sir Philip responded bluntly that a "thirst for glory at all costs has severely damaged th integrity and image of all sports". 

The 267 Russian places will be re-distributed around those teams that can afford to pay their way. There may not be too many able to take them.

The honour of the IPC and the Paralympic movement shines brightly through the dark days of doping. The least the IOC could do for it is to turn over a few more of its millions to help them in their darkest hour.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

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

Keywords · Olympics · Paralympics · Neil Wilson

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