What's been inspiring Rio's Paralympic ticket turnaround?

Story highlights

  • Rio beats Beijing on ticket sales
  • Athletics sold out over the weekend
  • Media campaign behind ticket sales increase

(CNN)At first it seemed like Rio's Paralympics could be a disaster -- but a recent upsurge in sales has made the Brazilian event the second biggest Games in terms of ticketing, with an estimated 1.9 million sold.

Last Monday -- four days before the Games began -- the International Paralympic Committee announced that one million tickets had been sold. Five days later, sales had nearly doubled as Rio eclipsed the 1.7 million seats filled at Beijing in 2008. Only London 2012 has attracted more spectators, selling 2.76 million tickets.
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    "Rio 2016 is quickly living up to its billing as the people's Games," the ruling body's director of media and communications Craig Spence said in a statement on the official IPC website. "The Barra Olympic Park was a hive of activity on Thursday and supporters of all ages were not disappointed as world records fell in multiple sports.
    "These Games have quickly gathered momentum and it is fantastic to hear the noise level the Cariocas are creating in each venue."
    Questions had been raised about the high number of empty seats during the Olympics, and there were fears the Paralympics would also suffer -- especially when venues were shut and countries' participation was put in doubt due to funding shortfalls and budget cuts.
    Only 12% of available tickets had been sold a month before the Games began, but 1.5 million have been snapped up in the past three weeks.
    On the first day of competition, 105,000 people attended venues on the Barra Olympic Park, and on Friday this rose to 144,000.
    On Saturday a record 167,000 people attended -- beating Rio's biggest crowd for one day of competition at August's Olympics. On top of this, the evening sessions for athletics were sold out on both Friday and Saturday.
    So what's helped increase the number of spectators at the Paralympic Games?

    Campaign attracts celebrity backing

    Due to concerns the Games would be poorly attended, former London 2012 marketing director Greg Nugent introduced the #FillTheSeats media campaign, asking people to buy and donate tickets to Brazilian children and people with disabilities.
    It has been endorsed by several celebrity names, including Britain's Prince Harry and rock group Coldplay, with intentions of raising $15,000.

    'Affordable and accessible'

    Philip Wilkinson, international media manager for the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, says the latter's "very affordable and accessible" ticket prices have helped in a country where the average monthly wage is around $550.
    "A large proportion of the total 2.5 million tickets available are priced at R$10 (around $3), and 2 million of these were priced at R$30 ($9) or less," Wilkinson told CNN.

    Inspiring a Nation

    Brazilian athletes have made a successful start to the Paralympics.
    The athletes' performances have also helped boost ticket sales. Ahead of Sunday's action, 89 world records had been broken, and home fans have had plenty to celebrate -- including Daniel Dias in the swimming, Daniel Martins in the T20 400m, and Petrucio Ferreira Dos Santos in the T47 100m.
    As the Paralympic spirit continues to grip the nation, Wilkinson said between 40,000-60,000 tickets are being sold per day.
    Brazil made its Paralympics debut in 1972, and won its most total medals -- 47 -- in Beijing eight years ago.
    However, its highest tally of golds -- 21 -- came at London 2012, finishing seventh overall. This year's team was sitting fifth in the Rio medal table on Monday, with six golds and 26 overall.
    "We saw a lot of energy coming from the Olympic Games and from people who just wanted to have access to the Paralympic Park in Barra," Rio 2016's executive director for communications Mario Andrada told the IPC website ahead of the Paralympics, when ticket sales had reached 1.5 million.
    "Now we see people looking for specific athletes and scheduled duels. To see sport as the main reason for people to buy a given set of tickets is very rewarding."