Business

Rio up and running for 2016 Paralympic Games

  • 9 September 2012
  • From the section Business
Alan Oliveira celebrates winning gold in the T44 200 metres final
Image caption Alan Oliveira put Brazil and the Paralympics on the international map

Brazil's Paralympic team powered its way into the UK consciousness when sprinter Alan Oliveira sped past favourite Oscar Pistorius to win gold in the T44 200m final.

The country's Paralympic authority set itself the target of finishing seventh in the London 2012 Paralympic table, something it achieved as it improved on its ninth position in Beijing.

Now Brazil wants to continue that momentum both in and out of the sporting arena as it looks forward to hosting the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

For its athletes it is looking for fifth place in the medals table. And outside the stadium it wants a Games with a uniquely Brazilian flavour, but which also brings about change in the country.

"Our core Paralympic Games message is one of passion and transformation," says Leonardo Gryner, chief executive of the Rio 2016 organising committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"The Paralympic project is a very special one for Rio De Janeiro."

'Accessibility issues'

Mr Gryner explained that the path to the Brazil Paralympics began back in 1999 when the country bid for hosting rights to the 2007 Pan American Games.

Image caption Terezinha Guilhermina has won sprint golds for Brazil at London 2012

"That move was in order to be prepared should we win the hosting rights to the Olympic Games," he says.

However, it was then decided that Rio would also bid to host the 2007 Parapan Games for athletes with physical disabilities, the first time it and the Pan Am had both been staged in the same city.

"The Parapan was a very successful event, we had full stadiums," says Mr Gryner.

"Even though the stadiums were smaller than those we will use in 2016, it enabled us to realise what the Paralympic Games needs are."

He continues: "We will deliver a great Paralympic Games and raise the awareness, and change the approach, for accessibility issues in Rio and across our country."

Not long after staging those Pan American and Parapan Games, the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB) was tasked by then President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to create a plan for the long-term development of Paralympic sports in Brazil.

And in the four-year period between the Beijing Olympics of 2008 and London 2012, the CPB was able to more than double the investment in Paralympic Sport from about 77m reais (£24m) to 165m reais.

Andrew Parsons, the son of expatriate British parents, is president of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee.

"We have attracted more partners over the years, and have a better relationship too across the three levels of government," says Mr Parsons.

"I hope this will continue to be the trend."

'Same language'

Those Paralympic partnerships include with the Federal Government through the Ministry of Sport, and also with government-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal and state airports group Infraero, as well as with the state government of Sao Paulo and the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Image caption Mr Parsons says the Paralympics should remain a separate event from the Olympics

The deal with the state of Sao Paulo was worth some 5m reais, and the tie-up with Rio de Janeiro some 2m reais.

As with London in 2012, the Rio Paralympics in 2016 will use venues and sites that have been used by the Olympic Games earlier in the summer.

"The relationship with the Olympic Games team is very good, we are speaking the same language," says Mr Parsons.

"Preparations are on time and on budget. It is going very well - in terms of building the venues, and terms creating a legacy."

There have been suggestions that in future the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games should be merged into one event, but this is not something Mr Parsons supports, saying: "We would rather have our own Games than be a minor part of another Games."

'High expectations'

His team will launch its Paralympic Games commercial plan later this year, and Mr Parsons says he is heartened that all the Tier One sponsors for the 2016 Olympic Games say they will are interested in also partnering the Paralympic Games.

Image caption Mr Parsons has been impressed by the way London has hosted the Paralympics

That is a list of firms that includes Japanese carmaker Nissan, and Brazilian firms Bradesco, Bradesco Seguros, Claro, and Embratel.

Nissan has already signed up as a sponsor of the Paralympic Games, and will provide more than 2,000 vehicles that meet the needs of athletes competing in Rio 2016.

And the Brazil Paralympics team has been using the firm's cars here in London over the past few weeks.

"We have a great relationship with them," says Mr Parsons.

"We have high expectations over the next four years, in terms of money coming in for the Paralympic Games from sponsors."

He praised London's organisation of the Paralympic Games and looked to what Rio could learn when its turn comes around in four years' time, particularly in terms of ticket sales and marketing of the event.

"But we will have our own way to organise things with a Brazilian flavour," he says.

"I hope that the 2016 Paralympics and Olympics will show the best of the Brazil, and what we have to offer the world."

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