A warning from the International Paralympic Committee that a budget crisis could lead to cuts to athlete services has Team Canada concerned ahead of the upcoming Paralympic Games in Rio in September.
International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven met with the Brazilian government and Rio’s mayor in a round of emergency talks to discuss the financial issues the Rio 2016 Organising Committee has ahead of next month’s Paralympic Games.
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“Although the situation is pretty precarious, rumours that the Games may not go ahead or that sports may be cut are totally unfounded and not true,” Craven said in a statement Monday. “Our aim right now is to bring in additional funding and resources in order to deliver the Games at the service levels expected by all stakeholders, most importantly the athletes.
“If no extra funding is available then the Organising Committee will have to implement further cuts to the Paralympic Games on top of the cuts we have already made alongside the IOC and Olympics.”
At issue is a roughly $7 million travel grant that was supposed to be paid last month to help competing countries get to Brazil for the Sept. 7-18 event that has been delayed.
Martin Richard, chief of communications for the Canadian Paralympic Committee, said while Team Canada has made other arrangements to secure flights for athletes to the Games a gap in funding could affect the future work of the committee.
“Worldwide there is a significant concern,” Richard told Global News. “It is huge concern because we want to make sure all the athletes that have qualified to represent their country at the Paralympic Games get a chance to compete on the world stage.”
“It wouldn’t be fair to an athlete to miss the games because the funds didn’t come in time for them to purchase a plane ticket to get to Rio.”
Canada is set to send a delegation of approximately 155 athletes, participating in 19 sports, to Rio.
“We are not worried about getting Team Canada to Rio and back,” Richard said. “But it is still a huge risk for us financially because if this fund doesn’t come in as part of our budgeting it could create financial risk for the Paralympic committee.”
“Short term it won’t impact Team Canada at the games but it could potentially impact our other programs that are supporting athletes on the pathway to the next Olympic games whether it’s Pyongchang in 2018 or Tokyo in 2020.”
Meanwhile, several media reports say ticket sales for the Paralympic Games have also been weak with only roughly 12 per cent of the tickets sold. According to CNN, only 300,000 of the 2.5 million available tickets have been sold for the Rio Paralympics.
Rio’s attempt to secure emergency bailout funds has also been blocked by a court injunction launched by prosecutors are demanding no more money be spent on the events unless the Rio 2016 organizers release details on their spending, the Associated Press reports.
Craven said Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes was prepared to deliver 150 million reals ($47 million) to cover costs and “to ensure the success of the games.”
“Clearly, the simplest and easiest way around this is for the Rio 2016 organizing committee to be open and transparent with its financial records in order to allow this additional funding to come in,” Craven said.