Rio ready to surprise with Paralympics

Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 6, (GNA/dpa) – Beset
by enormous financial problems and fears of chaos, the first Paralympic Games
in South American hope, thanks in part to Brazil’s talent for improvisation, to
be a surprise.

So far it has been a positive experience for
the participants shortly before the start.

And on Wednesday, the emotions should be
stirred when photos of all the athletes will form a huge heart in an opening
ceremony in the Maracana Stadium, which under the theme “Everybody Has A Heart”
will be aiming to mix humour, energy and Brazilian rhythm.

In
Rio de Janeiro everything is being done to try to explain the sports events at
the Games. For example, the rules of wheelchair basketball can be seen in short
clips on electronic billboards.

Former football star Ronaldinho, an
ambassador to the Games, has produced a song entitled “En sou do mundo, um
vencedor” (I’m part of this world, a winner) as a tribute to athletes with
disabilities, which is turning into an internet hit.

And newspapers have been full of stories of
Brazilian disabled athletes and how accidents such as car crashes have led to
their disabilities.

It has led to more debate on how
infrastructure in Rio can be improved for people with disabilities. Lifts and
barrier-free access is often lacking; many disabled people have difficulty
leaving their homes.

Maybe the Olympics were just a little too
ambitious for Rio, especially in terms of transport. Ahead of the Paralympics
the system of special bus lanes seems to be working better, also due to the
fact that the event, with fewer than 4,350 athletes and up to 2.5 million
available tickets, is smaller.

Just a few weeks ago it was feared
competition would be taking place in front of rows of empty seats. But after
the Olympics, sales have picked up significantly. Up to 1.5 million tickets
have now been sold, with hopes sales could reach 2 million.

Organizers are also hoping to attract
families to the Games. A visit to the Olympic Park in the Barra district can be
made for 10 reais (some 3 dollars), and it is then hoped tickets for events
will be bought there on the spur of the moment.

“There now are more and more people who
want to see certain athletes and competitions,” organizing committee spokesman
Mario Andrada said.

The number of venues and workers has again
been reduced, with the focus now mainly on the Olympic Park. In the Olympic
centre in Deodoro, only shooting, 7-a-side football and equestrian competition
is now taking place.

Thanks to financial support from private
sponsors amounting to 250 million reais, the city and the government could
ensure that all the teams were able to arrive, even if promised subsidies
arrived late.

The Paralympic Committee of Brazil has
issued a target of fifth place in the medals table at the September 7 to 18
event and hopes the Games will lead to greater awareness and more professional
training conditions for disasbled sport.

The excitement is expected to mount when
Brazilians are fighting for gold medals. In 5-a-side football, where visually
impaired players compete using a ball which emits a sound that players can
follow, Brazil have won gold since 2004.

Organizers, however, do not want to see a
repeat of the unfair behaviour of fans at times during the Olympics when
opponents of Brazilians were booed. And spectators have been asked not to boo
the Argentinian team during the opening ceremony.

GNA

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