Paralympic Games being slimmed down, but will proceed, organizers say

Spending on the Paralympic Games is being slimmed down, but the event will take place in Rio de Janeiro in September as expected with 22 sports and all the countries that registered to compete, organizers pledged Friday.

The Paralympics have been struggling with slow ticket sales and a lack of sponsoring. A court injunction on public funding for the event has further complicated the situation, already affected by a deep recession and political crisis in Brazil.

"Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this," International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven told journalists in Rio.

Organizers are implementing a series of cuts to whittle down spending on the event for athletes with disabilities. Reductions in staff, venues and transport services are all foreseen, but Craven rejected suggestions that the Paralympians were being treated as "second-class citizens" when compared to the Olympians currently competing in Rio.

"Despite the problems we face, we still believe that the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will inspire and excite the world and go some way to making for a more inclusive society for all," Craven said.

All "stakeholders" will feel the effects of the cuts, but the priority remains to have athletes "compete in the best conditions possible," IPC chief executive officer Xavier Gonzalez added.

Craven said he was starting to see "the light" at the end of the tunnel also thanks to support from Rio mayor Eduardo Paes and Brazil's interim president, Michel Temer.

"[Temer] picked up the phone on a number of occasions to get things moving," Craven said. "A number of state-run companies have since signed contracts to sponsor the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, bringing in much-needed money to the organizing committee."

Public funds will also be used to finance the Paralympics, as foreseen in Brazil's original bid for the 2016 Games.

Craven said 150 million reias (47 million dollars) are expected to come from the city of Rio and around 100 million reias from the federal government. The president of Brazil's Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons, expressed confidence that "solutions will be found" in case of any further complications.

Craven urged the Rio 2016 organizing committee to now pay out as fast as possible the travel grants that many athletes need to come to Rio - money that should already have been handed over at the end of July.

Even with those funds, 10 nations or so are expected to "struggle to cover the costs of their travel to the Games," but the IPC is working with them to "ensure their participation in Rio," Craven said.

He lamented the fact that not all information on the financial state of the Rio Paralympics had been made readily available.

"If it was smoke and mirrors, now we're getting to a point where we've moved from smoke to maybe a light haze, and now we're looking for the sunshine that you can expect in Rio," Craven said.

"I think we've come to a point now where we're confident that we can deliver good Games," he added. "We could be on the verge of great Games, but I can't say that yet."

Last update: Sat, 20/08/2016 - 09:15

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