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The Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will receive an unprecedented 116 combined hours of coverage in the United States, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced on Tuesday (24 September), as NBC Olympics and the United States Olympic Committee have partnered to acquire the US media rights to the next two Paralympic Games.
NBC and NBCSN will combine to air 50 hours of television coverage for March's Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, starting on 7 March with the Opening Ceremony. It will be followed by daily coverage of all five Paralympic sports in the Sochi programme, before the Games' Closing Ceremony is broadcast on 16 March.
In September 2016, NBC and NBCSN will show 66 hours of coverage from the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an increase of 60.5 hours from the coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The 2016 Games are set to be the biggest yet with more than 4,300 athletes competing in 22 sports, and aim to build on the success of London 2012 which were broadcast to a global cumulated audience of 3.8 billion in 115 countries.
In addition to the unprecedented US television coverage, the USOC will provide live online coverage of both the Sochi and Rio Paralympic Games at TeamUSA.org.
Sir Philip Craven, IPC President, said: "We are absolutely delighted to announce this two-Games agreement with NBC and the USOC as it provides more airtime of the Paralympics than ever before in the US. Following the success of London 2012, we said it was absolutely essential for the growth of the Paralympic Movement and the Paralympic Games that in future years US audiences had a greater opportunity to watch some of the world's best elite athletes in action.
Over 10 days, the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will feature near 700 athletes with a physical or visual impairment from 45 countries competing in seven disciplines of five sports. The Games feature 72 medal events (34 men, 34 women, four mixed).
Team USA will compete in each of the sports contested in Sochi with an estimated team of 77 athletes. For the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, the US sent 50 athletes, winning four gold medals, five silver medals and four bronze medals, finishing fifth overall in the medal count. In 2010, Andy Soule, a US Army veteran, won a bronze medal in the men's sitting 2.4km individual pursuit biathlon event, becoming the first US biathlete to medal at an Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games.
Of the 50 athletes who competed in Vancouver, five were military athletes: alpine skier Heath Calhoun (Clarksville, Tenn.), ret., U.S. Army; Nordic skier Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash./Twin Lakes, Idaho), ret., U.S. Air Force; wheelchair curler Patrick McDonald (Madison, Wis.), ret. U.S. Army; Soule; and alpine skier Chris Devlin-Young (Campton, N.H.), ret., U.S. Coast Guard. All are Sochi hopefuls including Calhoun, who was the U.S. flag bearer for the 2010 Opening Ceremony.
At London 2012, Team USA featured 227 athletes and guides, including 20 active duty and veteran service members, who finished sixth in the medals table having won 98 medals. Top performers included swimmer Jessica Long, who won five gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal in nine events, and wheelchair racer Ray Martin, who won four gold medals in four events.