The international games featuring more than 4,300 disabled athletes from 161 countries opened in Rio de Janeiro amid reports that costs could outpace ticket sales and sponsorships, jeopardizing some aspects of the games.
But organizers say a last-minute push has boosted ticket sales and a bailout by the Brazilian government has helped save the event.
International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven said he was notified just five weeks ago that funding for the games was tight.
“This is the worst situation that we’ve ever found ourselves in at Paralympic movement,” Craven told The Associated Press. “We were aware of difficulties, but we weren’t aware it was as critical as this.”
The AP reports that the city of Rio contributed more than $46 million and the Brazilian federal government chipped in another $30.7 million funneled through three state-run entities.
Even with that cash infusion, Paralympics officials say venues, seating, and staffing will be scaled back. But they promise no sports or teams have been cut.
Of course, they were speaking after the Russian delegation was disqualified as a result of a doping scandal. During the opening ceremonies, the Russian flag was seen in the ranks of the athletes from Belarus, in an apparent protest against the banning of the Russians.
Organizers say 1.6 million tickets have been sold, but that’s short of the 2.5 million available. Four years ago, the London Paralympics sold 2.7 million tickets, reports the BBC.
Nevertheless, for the athletes it’s all about elevating the international profile of the games.
“I don’t want the movement to plateau or become stagnant,” U.S. wheelchair basketball player Desiree Miller told the AP. Miller also competed in London.
“I want it to catch fire after Rio so by the time Tokyo comes around there’s not a person in the States or a person in the world that doesn’t know who a Paralympian is.”