Brazil promises better Paralympics than London

Phil Hazlewood
Members of Britain's delegation parade during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 29. Rio de Janeiro will go one step further than London when the Paralympic Games come to the Brazilian city in 2016, the head of the country's Paralympic committee has said

Rio de Janeiro will go one step further than London when the Paralympic Games come to the Brazilian city in 2016, the head of the country's Paralympic committee said on Friday.

"When we give back the flag to the International Paralympic Committee at the closing ceremony of the Rio Games, we will do so to a Paralympic movement that will be stronger than before," Andrew Parsons told a news conference in London.

This year's Games have been billed as the biggest and most high-profile since they were first held in Rome in 1960, with some 2.7 million tickets sold and athletes competing in packed venues in the British capital.

Parsons said that the success of the current Games was "no surprise" but he pledged: "We are very confident that we can raise the bar even higher than London."

Investment in disabled sport in Brazil has more than doubled from about 77 million reals ($38 million, 30 million euros) in 2005-2008 to some 165 million reals in 2009-2012, 98 percent of which was public sector funding, he added.

That has translated into success in London, with Brazilian athletes among the major stars of the Games, which opened on August 29 and close on Sunday.

They include swimmer Daniel Dias, who has so far won four gold medals, and particularly sprinter Alan Oliveira, who sensationally beat South African star Oscar Pistorius to win gold in the T44 200m last Sunday.

The nation's footballers have again made the five-a-side final and are looking to defend their unbeaten record since the sport was introduced to the Paralympics in 2004.

Parsons said Paralympians would play a major role in promoting disabled sport in Brazil as well as transforming perceptions about and access for people with disabilities across the country.

"We're in a country where we still have a long way to go in terms of social inclusion for people with disability," he told reporters.

"Maybe by 2016 we will not have a perfect country for persons with a disability but it (the Paralympic Games) is a big push. What sport has done for persons with disability is having role models for kids. It's amazing.

"Every kid in Brazil doesn't have to dream about being (legendary footballers) Ronaldo or Pele. They can dream about being Daniel Dias or (four-time Paralympic sprinter) Adria Santos. This is very important.

"When you have disabled athletes as heroes, they're part of society. They're another element of what we call society. This is a big legacy that can come from the Games."

The chief executive of the Rio 2016 organising committee for the Olympics and Paralympics, Leonardo Gryner, said his main challenge will be "to sell more than 2.7 million tickets for the Rio Games".

But he, too, said Rio, which in 2007 hosted the ParaPan American Games, would have a lasting legacy for the estimated 15 percent of people in the South American nation who have "permanent needs regarding accessibility".

"Through the Paralympic Games, we can take this to the audience and work to achieve it in our daily life," he said.

All venues will be accessible for people with disabilities, as will public transport and the city's streets, which would serve as a model for other cities, he added.

"I think we are going to have a very accessible city and it will be successful as an example for the rest of the country," he said.

Rio is to showcase its Games at the closing ceremony at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday with an eight-minute performance of song and dance that joint creative director Daniela Thomas said would try be "contagiously joyful".