Ten reasons to get excited about the Rio Paralympics

More sports, a new continent – and even medals that rattle. The 2016 Games will break new ground inside and outside the sporting arena. 04 Sep 2016
Aerial view on stadium

The Maracana Stadium will host the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

ⒸGetty Images

The world’s biggest Para event gets underway this week, kicking off with a spectacular Opening Ceremony at the Maracana Stadium in Rio.

Here are 10 reasons to look forward to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games:

1. Two new sports will make their debut at Rio.

For the first time Paralympians will be competing in events in canoe and triathlon – bringing the total number of sports at Rio to 22. In all, there will be 528 medal events across 10 days of competition.

2. It is the first time that Latin America has staged the Paralympics.

The last Games in the Americas was Atlanta in 1996, but 2016 hosts Brazil will be building on a proud Paralympic tradition, having finished seventh in the medal table at London 2012.

3. There will be more athletes competing at the Rio 2016 Games than at any previous Paralympics.

The figure of 4,350 is more than in London 2012, and double the number that took part in Atlanta in 1996.

4. And their achievements could see the record books re-written.

Given the huge improvements seen across all sports in the last four years, with multiple world records broken, officials are anticipating the Games will be the greatest ever in terms of athletic performance.

5. Six countries will make their Paralympic debuts in Rio.

This will bring the total number of participating nations to more than 160. The 2016 newcomers are Aruba, Congo, Malawi, Somalia, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo. And a small group of refugee and asylee Para athletes will also compete as an independent team.

6. The Games will be seen by more people than ever before.

There is expected to be a cumulative global TV audience of around 4 billion, including live coverage of a summer Games in the US and Latin America for the first time. There will be 1,800 press and media in Rio.

7. The 2016 medals feature braille and contain a tiny device that makes a noise when shaken.

This new innovation for the Rio Paralympics will allow visually-impaired athletes to know if the medals are gold, silver or bronze.

8. The Rio medals are environmentally friendly, too.

They were made according to strict sustainability criteria, without the use of mercury, and contain 30 per cent recycled materials.

9. Tom, the official mascot of the Rio Games, is a pretty cool guy.

He is a magic creature – a fusion of all the plants in the Brazilian forests. Tom was born out of the explosion of happiness that happened when, in 2009, it was announced that Rio would be hosting the Games.

10. Have you seen the views?

Rio’s stunning backdrop and wonderful Games venues will make for the most visually spectacular Paralympic Games ever.

And the locals’ carnival spirit should make it a colourful and musical affair, too.