The people of Rio and Brazil will be awarded the Paralympic Order on Monday (19 September) in recognition of their outstanding support for the Rio 2016 Games.
International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven made the announcement during his address to the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympics at Rio’s Maracana Stadium on Sunday (18 September).
More than 2.1million tickets were sold to the ‘People’s Games’ which came to a close in a vibrant and colourful celebration of Brazilian music and dance.
“In a Games of many golds, I have one last medal to present,” said Sir Philip. “The IPC Governing Board has decided unanimously that tomorrow I will award the people of Rio and Brazil, the Paralympic Order, the highest honour a person or group of people may receive, for your outstanding support of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“Welcome as members to the Paralympic Movement. Muito Obrigado, Cariocas.”
Earlier, Sir Philip had led the capacity crowd in a moment of silence in tribute to Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad who died whilst competing in a road cycling event on Saturday.
The IPC President said the cyclist’s death had “affected us all and left the whole Paralympic Movement united in grief”. “Tonight, I would like you to join me in paying our condolences to his family, friends, his teammates and the people of Iran,” he said.
Sir Philip also paid tribute to the Paralympians, who were assembled on the hallowed turf of the Maracana stadium. In total, more than 4,300 athletes from 159 countries competed in the Games, with almost 1,500 medals distributed to sportsmen and women from 82 countries in five continents. Between them, they set 209 new world records.
“Paralympians, your exceptional performances focussed the world on your sensational abilities,” said Sir Philip. “People were in awe at what you could do and forgot about what they believed you could not. You showed to the world that with a positive attitude the human body, and above all the human heart and mind, knows no limits and absolutely anything is possible.
“You defied expectations, rewrote the record books and turned ill-found pity into pride. You are now heroes and role models for a new generation of sports fans from all over the world.”
The distinctive cry of ‘Brazil’ which has become a familiar sound at venues throughout the Games when a home athlete has been participating rang out again at the Maracana as the Brazilian flag was paraded by Ricardinho, the match-winner for Brazil in the final of the football 5-a-side tournament on Saturday.
The ceremony witnessed the official presentation of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award for the two Paralympians who were considered to best exemplify the spirit and values of the Games, the USA’s Tatyana McFadden and Ibrahim Al Hussein, who competed under the Paralympic flag for the Independent Paralympic Athletes team.
The ceremony featured performances from a host of Brazilian musicians including drummer Mestre Batman, singers Gaby Amarantos and Ivete Sangalo, accordionist Mestrinho, tenor and pianist Saulo Laucus, and young Jonathan Bastos who wowed the audience as he played the guitar with his feet. A group of 16 wheelchair users including a mix of professional and amateur dancers was gathered especially for the ceremony to accompany the music.
The playing of the national anthem of Japan signalled the start of the official handover of the Paralympic flag to Tokyo, host city of the 2020 Games. Tokyo has a proud historic connection with the Paralympic Movement as it was at the 1964 Games in the city where the term ‘Paralympics’ was first used. The Maracana crowd were given a flavour of what to expect in Tokyo as they were introduced to Team Tokyo 2020, including performances from amputee model Gimico, visually-impaired performer Akira Hiyama, and amputee dancer Koichi Omae.
Earlier, the final sporting action of Rio 2016 lived up to the high standards that had been set during the previous days of the competition.
The final medal table was topped by runaway leaders China, who ended with 239 medals including 107 golds, 81 silvers and 51 bronzes. In second place were Great Britain with 147 medals, including 64 golds, and Ukraine were third with a total of 117, of which 41 were gold.
On the last day of Para athletics there was drama in the T53/54 men’s and women’s races. The men’s marathon came down to a sprint finish on Copacabana beach front between Switzerland’s Marcel Hug and Australia’s Kurt Fearnley. The so-called Swiss ‘Silver Bullet’ Hug just had too much for two-time Paralympic champion Fearnley in the final straits, however, crossing the line in 1:26:16 to win his first Paralympic gold.
It was an even tighter finish in the women’s T53/54 race where China’s Lihong Zou and the USA’s Tatyana McFadden clocked the same time and were both awarded the Paralympic record. But it was Zou who took the gold as her wheel crossed the line marginally in front, ending the American’s dream of a fifth gold of the Games.
Elsewhere, Morocco’s world record holder and reigning world champion El Amin Chentouf clinched gold in his first ever Paralympic Games marathon, winning the men’s T12 event. The men’s marathon T46 was won by China’s Chaoyan Li in 2:33.35, more than three minutes clear of his rivals. And there was gold for Spain in the women’s T12 race as Elena Congost crossed the line in 3:01.43 to finish more than five minutes clear of the field.
Back at the Olympic Park, there were two outstanding competitions to be completed. In the final of the wheelchair rugby, Australia clinched gold with a double-overtime 59-58 triumph over the USA in what was widely regarded as one of the greatest games the sport has seen. And, in the final of the men’s sitting volleyball, the honours went to Iran as they triumphed over Bosnia and Herzegovina.