RIO DE JANEIRO: Rio Paralympics organisers are to close a venue and media facilities, cut staff and shrink stadium capacities in a desperate bid to reduce costs before the Games start next month, officials said Friday.
About 10 countries will struggle to get athletes to the Games because promised travel grants have not been paid on time, International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven said.
“Never before in the 56 year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this,” Craven told a press conference.
“The situation is difficult for everyone involved.”
He said the Games which run from September 7-18 are confronted by “sizable organisational and financial challenges.”
Repeated cuts to the 22-sport Games, with more than 4,300 athletes expected, have been made over the past 18 months as Brazil struggles with an economic and political crisis.
Rio de Janeiro city government has promised 150 million reais ($46 million) to boost the Games budget, while Craven said the federal government had offered another 100 million reais in sponsorship from state companies.
But Craven said the extra revenues “will not plug the Rio 2016 deficit.”
He said the extra cuts “are likely to impact every stakeholder attending the Paralympic Games.”
The wheelchair fencing is to be moved from the Deodoro complex to Rio’s main Olympic park. This will allow for a reduced operation at the Deodoro zone.
Cuts have already been made to transport and the food quality for athletes.
Public grants to the Rio organising committee, that should have been paid by July 29, have been held up by two court injunctions which demanded details of how money would be spent.
The grants were to be given to the 165 countries taking part to help with travel costs.
“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.”
The promised Brazilian public money has to be paid “pronto” by the organising committee, Craven declared. IPC members “respect the difficulties that have been going on here but it has to be paid now.”
Athletes are due to start arriving from August 31.
Craven said the IPC would ensure that the Games happen and the competitions start on time. But conditions would not be as easy as in London in 2012, or Beijing in 2008.
“The Games will happen, but they may not be — I wouldn’t say tip top, but maybe not as relatively luxurious as in the past.”
“Paralympians are resilient people, and the staff teams that back them up, and our Paralympic family will pull together,” he vowed.
Added to the cuts, the Games faces public apathy. Rio operations director Xavier Gonzalez said about 300,000 of the 2.4 million tickets had been sold.
He said organisers were hoping to sell two million tickets by the time the Games start.