The 2016 Paralympics in Rio is facing unparalleled challenges, budget cuts and the unexpected closure of venues but will go ahead as planned, the International Paralympic Committee said Friday.
Reports earlier this week revealed that the September 7-18 event was suffering from major cash shortfalls due to woeful ticket sales and lack of sponsors.
Now it has been confirmed that the Deodoro venue — which has hosted the rugby sevens, equestrian and part of the modern pentathlon during this month’s Rio 2016 Olympics — will be dismantled and Paralympic events due to be held there moved.
The workforce which has been in place over the past two weeks of Olympic action in Rio will also be reduced for the Paralympics, while a number of media centers will also be closed.
Travel grants which had been due in July will be paid but it is feared some nations may struggle to make it to Rio.
“Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this,” IPC president Philip Craven told reporters at a press conference in Rio Friday as he delivered a progress report.
“Since becoming aware of the full scale of the problem, we have focused all of our efforts on finding solutions to the problems.”
The IPC says it is not expecting the sellout crowds that flocked to the Paralympics at the London 2012 Games.
As of Tuesday, just 12% of 2.5 million tickets had been sold, even though the majority were being offered for roughly $3 each.
Organizers also revealed this week that they were trying to secure last-minute financing to ensure the Games could go ahead as planned.
Craven confirmed Friday that the IPC had worked with Rio mayor Eduardo Paes to secure an additional $47 million in funding and $31 million in sponsorship from state-run companies.
Craven also said he had met with Brazil’s interim president Michel Temer and the country’s minister for justice and defense minister, who promised that security forces in place for the Olympics will remain for the Paralympics.
The IPC said it hoped some of the new funds gathered could be used to pay the first of a series of overdue support grants to the 156 competing nations that help pay for athletes’ travel, and were a condition of Rio’s successful bid to host the Games.
But even if the payments are made it is feared the delay may mean that some nations may miss out.
“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,” Craven said. “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.
Despite the setbacks and challenges, Craven said he believes the Games can still be a success and act as a catalyst for positive social change in Brazil.
“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 realize that we will witness some truly spectacular sport,” he added.
“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.”