The Paralympic Games in Rio next month are being scaled back because of financial problems and some countries may not be able to send athletes as planned, the head of the International Paralympic Committee said Friday.
All the scheduled events will take place as planned during the games, from Sept. 7-18, organizers said. But smaller and poorer countries depend on funding from the IPC to send their teams to the games. A total of 165 countries are scheduled to take part, but some may have to drop out.
“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.”
He did not name the countries.
“We want full participation here,” he added. “It’s what the athletes deserve and it is what the athletes want after years of training and dedication.”
The planned cutbacks include shrinking the number of workers, reducing transportation and closing some spaces used by staff, organizers and the media. These are on top of other cuts that have been made over the past year, Craven said.
Organizers had hoped to sell 2 million tickets to the Paralympics, but with less than three weeks to go before they open, fewer than 300,000 tickets have been sold, officials said.
As the host country, Brazil is responsible for most of the financing for the Olympics and the Paralympics. When Brazil was awarded the games in 2009, the economy was booming. But now Brazil is suffering its worst recession in decades, and the country went billions of dollars over budget for the Olympics.
Craven said the city of Rio is working to secure additional funding, while Brazil’s national government says it will bring in additional sponsorship from state-run companies.
The Paralympic Games in London, held shortly after the Summer Olympics there in 2012, were widely seen as a model in terms of organization, participation and record-setting performances by the para-athletes.
“The news about the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games is worrying given the obviously constrained budgets,” the British Paralympic Association said following Friday’s news conference. “London 2012 proudly showed the world what was possible and we want Rio to be the next stage of that positive journey.”
Still, the British association said it would “be taking our full team proudly to the Rio Games and will strive to mitigate as much as possible any factors which could impact on their performance.”