A lack of funding will lead to major downsizing of the Paralympics scheduled for next month in Rio, writes Jack Burns.
The massive Deodoro Olympic Park where Olympic equestrian competitions took place is to be closed and dismantled, and the events held instead at a yet unspecified “standalone” venue.
Ireland will be sending London multi-medallist Helen Kearney as its equestrian representative for the 2016 Paralympics, but after today’s announcement it is not clear exactly where she will be competing.
The changes were announced this evening by International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Chairman Philip Craven who revealed that there will be major budget cutbacks for the September games.
He said in a statement: “Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this.
“Since becoming aware of the full scale of the problem, we have focused all of our efforts on finding solutions to the problems.
“At the IPC we are a relatively small but united organisation. It’s in our Paralympic DNA to see obstacles as an opportunity to do things differently and that’s what we are doing here. We are problem solvers by nature and fight for what we believe in.
“These cuts are on top of the ones we, together with the IOC, have already made in the last 12 months and are likely to impact nearly every stakeholder attending the Games.”
Today’s revelations followed the news that 50 nations may not be able to take part in the Paralympics after the Brazilian organisers failed to provide funding that had been promised.
Funding problems were signalled four days ago when the local organising committee admitted that is was more than two weeks late in sending more than seven million euro in grants to national Paralympic committees to enable them to travel to Brazil.
This money was to aid poorer countries to get to the Games and it is already anticipated that dozens of teams might not be able to attend if the money fails to arrive soon.
IPC President Craven, addressing the latest cutbacks this evening, said: “We are working desperately hard to protect athlete services, especially within the field of play. They have dedicated their lives to reaching these Games and we will do our utmost to try and maintain the service levels and scope that they expect at a Paralympic Games.”
While the workforce will be downsized and changes made to the transport schedule, the biggest announcement today was that the Deodoro Olympic Park would be closed and dismantled.
Wheelchair fencing has now been switched to the Barra Olympic Park while equestrian, seven-a-side football and shooting will be held at standalone venues.
Ireland’s Helen Kearney, from Dunlavin in Co. Wicklow, won a silver and a bronze medal at the London Paralympics in her individual events and also helped the Irish para-equestrian team secure a bronze medal.