Paralympics 2016: Have Games dodged disaster?

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paralympics lkl darlington_00003815


    Rio prepares for the Paralympic games


Rio prepares for the Paralympic games 01:55

Story highlights

  • Paralympic Games begin in Rio Wednesday
  • Event mired in controversy in recent weeks
  • More than 4,000 athletes from 161 countries will take part in Games

(CNN)One month ago, Rio's Maracana Stadium welcomed the world as the ribbon was cut on South America's first ever Olympic Games. Come 5.30pm local time Wednesday, it'll be the turn of the Paralympics to set the famous old venue alight.

The 15th Summer Paralympic Games has been dogged by very public doubts about ticket sales, budget cuts and the unexpected closure of facilities in recent weeks.
    Despite those apocalyptic visions of disaster, organizers are looking forward to the Games with a renewed sense of positivity.
    "It's been a little tumultuous," said International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president, Philip Craven, exercising no little understatement when he spoke to CNN Tuesday. "Six weeks ago, we didn't know how deep the difficulties were. We soon found out and then we started working (to put things right)."
    By mid-August just 12% of tickets for Paralympic events had been sold, causing major cash shortfalls which were exacerbated by a lack of sponsors.
    As a result, it was announced that the workforce which had been in place for the Rio Olympics would be reduced, a number of media centers would be closed while some venues would be changed.
    "Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this," Craven told reporters at the time.
    However the IPC worked with Rio's mayor, Eduardo Paes, to secure additional funding and bring in sponsorship from state-run companies. Similarly, arrangements were made with Brazil's national government to ensure security forces that were in place for the Olympics would remain for the Paralympics.
    Craven also says ticket sales have increased significantly since the Olympics packed up and left town. By Tuesday, upwards of 60% of tickets to Paralympic events had been snapped up.
    While that may still be down on the sellout crowds that flocked to the London Games in 2012, it marks an improvement on Beijing 2008.
    "We've sold 1.5 million (out of 2.5 million tickets) and that's really since the end of the Olympics," Craven confirmed. "It's all been last minute."

    Lessons learned

    Although it now appears the Games are in a much better place than they were a month ago, Craven insists lessons must be learned so such a scenario never plays out again.
    "I would say it's communication (that was the main issue)," he said. "Let us know if there is a problem and then we can start working things out months before, or maybe even a year before, don't leave it for the last 30 seconds."
    His legs were weak, but not too weak to run
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      His legs were weak, but not too weak to run


    His legs were weak, but not too weak to run 01:11
    Attendees at Wednesday's opening ceremony will be treated to a show designed and directed by designer Fred Gelli, writer Marcelo Rubens Paiva and artist Vik Muniz (whose work was famously chronicled in the popular film, Wasteland, about people who lived and worked in Rio's largest garbage dump).
    According to organizers, the theme of the Ceremony is "Every Body Has A Heart", reflecting a focus on the human condition, feelings, difficulties, solidarity and love.
    More than 4,000 athletes from 160 nations will then parade through the stadium. Noticeably absent, of course, will be Russia which was banned by the IPC due to its alleged state sponsored doping program.
    Ibrahim Al Hussein, a Syrian refugee and swimmer who will compete as part of the Independent Paralympic Athletes (IPA) Team at the Games, will lead the parade.
    And although some athletes undoubtedly had their own concerns prior to arriving in Rio, Craven insists everything is in line to ensure they can compete at their maximum over the coming fortnight.
    "I was at the athletes village yesterday, you'll see that the athletes are very happy there, great facilities, some have said the best village ever," he said.
    "I'm not sure London will be very happy about that, but it could well be," he said. "Why not?