200 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games: four test events to play crucial role in home straight

Biggest challenge for organisers will be transition period between the end of the Olympic Games and start of Paralympic Games say organisers. 21 Feb 2016
Aerial view of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Rio, Brazil, which will host rowing and canoe events during the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Aerial view of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Rio, Brazil, which will host rowing and canoe events during the 2016 Paralympic Games.

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By Rio 2016

“We are now really getting into the spirit and rhythm of the Paralympic Games. We are starting to breathe the Games. We live, speak the Games, wake up in the middle of the night to note something down…” So said Edílson Alves da Rocha, known as Tubiba, technical director of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB). With exactly 200 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games begin, his words reflect the excitement growing in the city.

This week, the CPB co-ordinators of all the Paralympic sports were in Rio de Janeiro. At the 2016 Games, 4,350 athletes from 176 countries will be competing for 528 medals in these sports. Besides visiting training and competition venues to test aspects such as travel times, they also had meetings with the Rio 2016’s sports managers. “In the final stretch, we are focusing on specific aspects of each discipline in order to shape the entire operation,” says Tubiba.

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An eye for detail

Before the Games, there will be four more Paralympic-specific test events to assess and adjust details: from 26 to 28 February there will be the International Wheelchair Rugby Championship, at Carioca Arena 1 in Barra Olympic Park. From 22 to 24 April, the Para-Swimming International Open will take place at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, also in Barra. On the 4 and 5 May, in Barra once more, the International Goalball Tournament will be held at the Future Arena. Finally, from 18 to 21 May, there will be the Para-Athletics International Open, involving competitions at the Olympic Stadium in the Maracanã Zone. This will be a full test event, to evaluate all functional areas.

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While competitions are always important technically, in order for athletes and coaches to evaluate their plans and training tactics in relation to opponents, they are perhaps even more important for Paralympic sports because of more specific points such as mobility-related tests, for example.

According to the Rio 2016’s accessibility co-ordinator, Augusto Fernandes, test events are fundamental. “We need to look carefully at how the building work has been completed,” he says. “As well as structures such as ramps, we check routes and signage for people with physical, visual and hearing impairments.” And not just at competition venues and the athletes’ village, but also in hotels.

At each test event there is training for volunteers. In the case of Paralympic sports, “a video shows how not to act and how to act correctly,” says Fernandes, who mentions another video, aimed at volunteers who will be serving the public, including people with some kind of impairment.

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Rodrigo Garcia, Rio 2016’s sports manager, notes that “during these 200 days, everything we have planned will start to happen.” Besides appraising different functional areas, the test events will also be a great opportunity to engage the public. “We have reached the time to ‘warm up’ the population. Two of the biggest Paralympic test events – swimming and athletics – will involve spectators.”

Key moment: transition

The shift from the Olympic Games to the Paralympic Games is an aspect that requires great attention among all those involved. The transition will take place over 16 days, between 22 August and 6 September.

As the Olympic events end and the competition venues are freed up, the work to adjust them to the Paralympics can begin. However, for the Olympic Village’s transformation into the Paralympic Village – including a complete change in look – there will be just three days before the Paralympic delegations start to arrive for the competitions. (The Opening Ceremony will be on 7 September and the competitions will end on 18 September.)

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During the next 200 days, the Paralympic ceremony operations will also be prepared. Although the ceremonies will feature around half the number of athletes as in the Olympic ceremonies, there will be more Paralympic medals ceremonies because of the variety of functional classes.

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Leonardo Caetano, the Rio 2016 ceremonies director, said: “Following the production of content and scripts, we are now producing and constructing the opening and closing ceremonies, involving rehearsals and costume production.”

Closer to the Games, two or three general ceremony rehearsals will be held. “The participants will be wearing their make-up and costumes. They are real projections, on the real stage,” said Caetano.

With regard to torches, the Paralympic relay is very different from the Olympic one, explains Marco Elias, who is responsible for the entire initiative. Each one of the five cities, representing Brazil’s regions, will have its own relay. The cities are Brasília, Belém, Natal, São Paulo and Joinville, one at a time, in an order yet to be determined, but starting on 1 September.

In Rio de Janeiro, there will be a two-day relay – on 6 and 7 September, when the opening ceremony will take place.

Education: the biggest legacy

According to the president of the CPB, Andrew Parsons, the Games will be a seminal opportunity to change perceptions as the public gets to see elite athletes in Brazil, with families enjoying a unique experience together. One of CPB’s challenges during these 200 days will be to motivate the public to participate in the Games, helping the population to understand the importance of this opportunity and to break down barriers.

“People are starting to realise that impairments are a characteristic of a person, no more or less important than other ones. And they are starting to see that people with impairments are productive, happy, great professionals, fathers and mothers, and friends,” says Parsons, who is also the vice president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).

The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.

Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.