Olympics: New cuts to Rio Paralympics

A man takes a selfie in front of the Olympic rings at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.
A man takes a selfie in front of the Olympic rings at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Rio Paralympics organisers are to close a venue and media facilities, cut staff and shrink stadium capacities in a desperate bid to reduce costs before the Games start next month, officials said on Friday (Aug 20).

About 10 countries are at risk of missing the Games because promised travel grants have not been paid on time, International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven said.

"Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this," Craven told a press conference.

"The situation is difficult for everyone involved."

He said the Games which run from Sept 7-18 are confronted by "sizable organisational and financial challenges."

Rio de Janeiro city government has promised 150 million reais (S$62 million) to help cover the Games budget, while Craven indicated the federal government had offered another 100 million reais in sponsorship from state companies.

But Craven said the extra revenues "will not plug the Rio 2016 deficit."

He said the extra cuts "are likely to impact every stakeholder attending the Paralympic Games."

As an example of the cuts, the wheelchair fencing is to be moved from the Deodoro complex to Rio's main Olympic park. This will allow for a major reduction in the size of the Deodoro operation.

Cuts have already been made to transport and the food quality for athletes.

Public grants to the Rio organising committee, that should have been paid by July 29, have been held up by two court injunctions which demanded details of how money would be spent.

The grants were to be given to the 165 countries taking part to help with travel costs.

"Currently, we have around 10 countries who, even if the grants are paid, may struggle to cover the cost of their travel to the games," Craven said.

"The IPC is working with them to find solutions and ensure their participation here in Rio," he added.

Athletes are due to start arriving from Aug 31.

Added to the cuts, the Games faces public apathy. Rio operations director Xavier Gonzalez said about 300,000 of the 2.4 million tickets had been sold.

He said organisers were hoping to sell two million tickets by the time the Games start.