With one year to go until the Rio 2016 Paralympics, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven has said he believes the Games will be a record-breaking success that will transform Latin America.
The Paralympic Games will run from 7-18 September next year and Sir Philip is confident that the Games will not only attract more athletes and countries than ever before, but also more spectators and TV viewers.
“We are expecting a record 4,350 athletes from around 170 countries to compete in 22 sports at Rio 2016, with both canoe and triathlon making their Paralympic debuts,” said Sir Philip, a five-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball.
“Our aim with next year’s Games is to build on the success of London 2012 and Sochi 2014, and so far the signs look extremely good.
“We have more broadcasters than ever before signed up to cover the Games, including a number of new territories, and we are fully confident we will break the four billion cumulative TV audience figure for the first time.
“Tickets for the Games will go on sale to coincide with the one year to go marker and our aspiration is to sell 3.3 million tickets, half a million more than London 2012. If we achieve this figure than we will be the world’s second biggest sporting event in terms of ticket sales behind the Olympics.”
The London 2012 Paralympic Games attracted 2.8 million spectators whilst a cumulative audience of 3.8 billion watched on television in over 100 countries around the world.
On Monday (7 September), Sir Philip will be at Rio 2016’s Paralympic Festival at Lagoa Rordiro de Freitas to celebrate the one year to go and the launch of Paralympic ticket sales. He is excited not just for the coming days that include venue tours and the final Chef de Mission seminar, but also for the year ahead.
“You could not ask for a more vibrant host city,” said the 65-year-old. “Brazilians are huge lovers of sport, and on Monday they will get a flavour of the tremendous sporting action they can expect next year when the Paralympics come to town.
“The Festival will feature some thrilling sporting action and I am particularly looking forward to the races to find the world’s fastest male and female para-athletes over 100m. A number of star names are competing and I am sure spectators will witness something very special indeed.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the progress with all the venues in the next week. With lots of activities planned between now and September 2016 – including many Test Events – excitement and momentum for the Games will snowball.”
Sir Philip, who will be overseeing his eighth and final Paralympics in Rio as the IPC President, believes next year’s sporting spectacle can be transformational, not just for Rio and Brazil but the whole of South America.
“The Paralympic Games have developed a strong reputation for being the world’s number one sporting event for driving social change and inclusion.
“At London 2012 especially, we saw how the performances of athletes led to seismic shifts in attitudes towards people with an impairment, whilst in Beijing in 2008 and Sochi last year, millions were spent on improving accessibility and creating barrier-free environments.
“I believe Rio 2016 will have a similar impact not just in Brazil but across the whole of South America. The Games will change how an entire continent views and thinks about disability whilst the event will act as a catalyst to improving accessibility.
“Ahead of next year’s Games, the city of Rio under the leadership of Mayor Paes is doing a lot to improve accessibility in various areas. It needs to be appreciated that it is impossible to transform an entire city overnight, but what is important is that the Games act as a trigger for further improvements.
“Had Rio not won the right to host the Games, then it is unlikely that improving accessibility would have been on the city’s agenda. It now is and, as we’ve seen with previous host cities, the good work done before the Games will continue afterwards benefiting millions of people.”
Delivering lasting legacies
Although the Games are still one year away, the IPC President has said the Rio 2016 Paralympics are already delivering a number of tangible legacies that will benefit Brazil’s almost 50 million people with an impairment.
In July, Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff announced new legislation – the Inclusion of People with Disabilities Act – which eliminates barriers in transport, housing, services, education, sport and the exercise of citizenship. She confirmed additional funding for the Brazilian Paralympic Committee.
Sir Philip said: “The new law announced by President Rouseff will be a legacy of the Games and another example of how hosting the Paralympic Games can act as a trigger for social inclusion, enriching the lives of millions.
“New legislation must be followed by actions to ensure its success, and I am confident the President will do this.
“Her government has already committed to investing millions more each year into the Brazilian Paralympic Committee through lottery funding. This will not just benefit the team in their bid for a top five finish in the medals table next year, but will increase participation in para-sport across the country at all levels.
“The state of the art high performance Paralympic training centre which will open in Sao Paulo later this year is another legacy of the Games delivered well before the Opening Ceremony.
“The centre will provide a world class training environment primarily for Brazilian para-athletes and will also be available for use by other National Paralympic Committees in the Americas. It’s a win-win for all.”