After all the hype of the Olympic Games next up is the Paralympic Games, where every day there are stories of people overcoming adversity to be crowned a paralympic Champion. Some their story of even competing at the Games will be the stuff that movies are made of.
It is sad therefore to hear that the Games are being scaled down. Especially after the huge success of the Paralympic Games in London four years ago.
Last week it was announced that only 12% of tickets had been sold and a serious budget shortfall was expected. The International Paralympic Committee’s president, Sir Philip Craven, had a crisis meeting with the interim Brazilian president, Michael Temer, and the Rio mayor, Eduardo Paes, and managed to secure extra funding. Funding that may well help the Paralympic movement but which will be more red ink for Brazil when the Olympic and Paralympic Games leave town.
Last week it was revealed that Rio 2016 organisers had failed to pay grants of up to $8m to allow countries to travel to the Games. Sir Philip Craven was quoted as saying “Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this.”
He also revealed that despite extra funding being found 10 teams would still struggle to afford to come to the Games even after the travel grants were paid.
“Our commitment to the IPC is a sold out Games and that is a commitment we are pursuing,” said a spokesman for Rio 2016. The Local Organising Committee also stated that it hoped to sell more than 2m of the 2.4m tickets available. With only 300,000, or 12%, having been sold so far it seems very unlikely that they will achieve that goal.
There are some who are asking why is at all coming to light at the eleventh hour? Why was this not highlighted earlier?
Yet does the problem lie far deeper than simply poor sales and marketing by the organisers in Rio?
It has been said that Sydney in 2000 lifted the Paralympic Games to new heights in the modern era. Sports fans in Australia embracing the Games and the athletes and those who missed out on tickets for the Olympics snapping up Paralympic tickets.
In Athens the interest in the Paralympics dipped as did ticket sales, but they bounced back in Beijing and then possibly reached their peak in London. Channel Four did an outstanding job of promoting the Paralympic Games and explaining the various categories and point systems. It was clear that as a television station a great deal of thought and preparation had gone into the coverage and it had a massive impact on the event. In fact Australian comedian Adam Hill’s television show for the Paralympics, “The Last Leg” is still on air four years later!
Of those three successful Paralympic Games in the past 16 years maybe the success of London and Sydney were not such a surprise, as both of these countries have come a long way socially in how they view and treat disability. Beijing, with the human rights issues casting a shadow over their hosting was possibly the biggest surprise.
So why is there so little interest in Rio in the Paralympics. There was a post on social media where a local stated that the reason that Copacabana beach was so popular and was a hang out for so many beautiful fit young people was ‘our bodies are all we have to show off.’ So could that be one of the reasons? While the people of Rio strive for the perfect body they find it hard to comprehend perfection in a body that may be minus a limb?
There are others who claim it is a socio-economic issue. That the reason people are not prepared to shell out money to watch the Paralympics is that they feel their life has also been a struggle and still is.
Here at Not The Footy Show we are no experts in assessing such issues, but the current situation does make one wonder if from hereon in it can no longer be assumed that once the Olympic caravan leaves town the Paralympics will roll into town and be met with the same enthusiasm. Can a venue automatically host both events? Should more care in deciding where the Paralympics is held be taken in the future?
The International Paralympic Committee have brought the Games a long way, but it may be time that they reassess the way their Games are hosted in the future and take more care over chasing a host city and not being and automatic add on after the Olympic Games. Then again there are rumours that the President of the IOC would like to see the two combined and the joint Games last a month. This however opens a whole new debate…