2016 Paralympic Games

Brazil welcomes the whole world

Clockwise from top: Brazilian swimmer Clodoaldo Silva climbs a ramp to light the cauldron to signify the start of the Rio Paralympics at the Maracana Stadium. American extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron Wheelz performs a crowd-pleasing jump from the me
Above: Brazilian swimmer Clodoaldo Silva climbs a ramp to light the cauldron to signify the start of the Rio Paralympics at the Maracana Stadium.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Clockwise from top: Brazilian swimmer Clodoaldo Silva climbs a ramp to light the cauldron to signify the start of the Rio Paralympics at the Maracana Stadium. American extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron Wheelz performs a crowd-pleasing jump from the me
Above: Singapore's equestrian rider Laurentia Tan enjoying the Opening Ceremony as she entered the stadium together with the Singapore contingent.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Clockwise from top: Brazilian swimmer Clodoaldo Silva climbs a ramp to light the cauldron to signify the start of the Rio Paralympics at the Maracana Stadium. American extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron Wheelz performs a crowd-pleasing jump from the me
Above: American extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron Wheelz performs a crowd-pleasing jump from the mega ramp during the Opening Ceremony.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Clockwise from top: Brazilian swimmer Clodoaldo Silva climbs a ramp to light the cauldron to signify the start of the Rio Paralympics at the Maracana Stadium. American extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron Wheelz performs a crowd-pleasing jump from the me
Above: American Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy dances with a robot. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

The first Paralympics in South America is low-key but Brazilians are hyped up about it

Everywhere in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, men and women are wearing the same uniform of polo tees in yellow, orange and green, khaki pants and carrying matching sling bags.

Some have transformed their trousers into shorts with just a quick whizz of the zip.

Whether they are volunteers or staff, these walking ambassadors of the Rio Paralympics - which started on Wednesday - are the few constant reminders of the Games.

It has been reported that just 15 per cent of promotional signs had been delivered by the time of the Paralympic opening ceremony, according to organisers.

Along roads leading to competition venues such as the Barra Olympic Park, there are streetlight banners announcing the Games.

But it is hard to spot publicity materials elsewhere in the city.

It may look like a low-key Games, yet many Brazilians are hyped up about hosting the first Paralympic Games staged in South America.

Course facilitator Beatriz Nazareth de Souza Teixeira, 31, said she is "even more excited" about the Paralympics than the Olympics because she feels that it is not often that one gets to see para-athletes compete.

  • HOW TO CATCH THE ACTION

  • ON TV

    Mediacorp, the official broadcaster for the Rio 2016 Paralympics, will broadcast the Games on okto, its channel for sports, and Toggle, its over-the-top service platform.

    The highlights include:

    • Closing ceremony, live on Sept 19, 6.55am to 9am

    • Team Singapore live events

    • Two daily highlights shows between today and Sept 18

    The Opening and Closing ceremonies, the daily shows, which include highlights of Singapore's winning moments, will also be available as catch-up on toggle.sg/paralympics

  • LIVE STREAMING

    There is live streaming of the entire Games on the International Paralympic Committee website: www.paralympic.org/rio-2016

She is planning to buy tickets to watch athletic events and is rooting for Brazilian T11 sprinter Terezinha Guilhermina, who has trained with Olympic legend Usain Bolt.

Teixeira, who has a 33-year-old cousin with cerebral palsy, is happy that the knock-on effect of the Games is that the city is now more accessible to people with disabilities, with the levelling of roads and wider sidewalks.

She is confident that the Games will raise awareness of people with disabilities and convince others that they are capable of achieving great things.

She said: "Despite the economic and social problems plaguing Brazil, I hope our organisers make our guests as comfortable as possible.

A WELCOME DISTRACTION

This is a very confusing year for us in Brazil, with the constant changes in government... the Paralympics can temporarily distract us from the crisis.
 

KELLY CARDOZO, a Brazilian looking forward to the Games.

"I want them to see that Brazilians are lively and fun."

Her colleague, programme manager Kelly Cardozo, is equally excited about the Paralympics and has bought tickets to watch sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball matches during the weekends.

The 38-year-old said: "This is a very confusing year for us in Brazil, with the constant changes in government.

"Such big events like the Paralympics can temporarily distract us from the crisis.

"This is also an opportunity for Brazil to show that it is an inclusive society, even as it deals with bread-and-butter issues."

However others like pilates instructor Tassia Iwasse are indifferent to the Games.

She does not intend to catch the action - whether live or on television because of her busy work schedule. She said: "I don't know any of the para-athletes, so I am not interested to watch them."

Still, Andrew Parsons, president of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee, believes that the Paralympic Games "is not the final destination, it is a catalyst for change".

By this, he hopes that perception towards people with an impairment will change for the better.

Only time will tell.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2016, with the headline 'Brazil welcomes the whole world'. Print Edition | Subscribe