The 2016 Paralympic Games, taking place in Rio, Brazil from 7-18 September, will go ahead despite major budget cuts, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced
Brazil won the competition to host both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2009 but has since struggled to raise the necessary funding in the aftermath of the 2008 global economic crisis. Budget cuts were made to the Olympic Games but the Paralympics face deeper difficulties because they have fewer commercial sponsors and weaker ticket sales.
According to an article in the New York Times, ‘As of this week, 28 sponsors had signed on to the Paralympics, fewer than half the number secured for the Olympics’, whilst organisers say that just 12 per cent of tickets have been sold with just three weeks to go to the opening ceremony.
Speaking at a press conference in Rio on Friday (19 August), Sir Philip Craven, IPC President, said that despite the difficulties he was confident Rio 2016 would be the best Games ever in terms of athletic performance and that they would 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,’ he said. ‘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.
Addressing the financial problems he added:
Never before in the 56 year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this. 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.
Sir Philip’s comments follow emergency talks with Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio, and Michel Temer, Brazil’s interim President. The IPC has asked for additional public support to help bridge the funding gap. Pledges of extra funding and sponsorship from Brazilian state companies now mean essential grants can be paid to enable national teams to travel to Rio. These should have been paid by the end of July with athletes due to arrive from 31 August onwards.
Sir Philip said the late payment of grants could still threaten some countries’ participation:
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.
Despite the additional revenues the IPC has announced a further raft of cuts, which it has agreed with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee.
These include a downsizing of its workforce, changes to transport services, the closure of a number of venue media centres, and a full review of the back-of-house spaces at all venues. Relocating certain competitions allows for other venues to be closed and dismantled.
Sir Philip Craven said:
These cuts are on top of the ones we, together with the International Olympic Committee, 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.
A further campaign to increase ticket sales is also planned although Sir Philip warned its impact could be limited. ‘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.’
A full list of national broadcasters covering the Rio Paralympics can be found here