Rio ready to emulate London

Philip Craven (AFP)
Philip Craven (AFP)

Rio de Janeiro - International Paralympic Committee chief Philip Craven believes Rio de Janeiro is poised to emulate the success of the London Paralympics at the upcoming 2016 games.

Craven, visiting Rio to view the venues, said Wednesday he was excited to see Brazil's efforts at raising awareness as well as putting on an extravaganza to rival London.

"This city and this country is a tailor made for transformation," said Craven, recently elected for a fourth term as IPC president.

Craven told reporters that London and Beijing in 2008 had showcased the extraordinary capabilities of Paralympians and proven that the games are "not about hanging the D-word (disability)" around competitors' necks.

Around 4,400 athletes will participate, on a par with London, while Rio will see the introduction of two new disciplines in the shape of canoeing and paratriathlon.

Craven said it was crucial the event leave a legacy for Rio by ensuring more people with physical impairments are encouraged to get out and practise sport inspired by the talents of their peers.

The London Games were enormously popular with the public snapping up 2.78 million tickets -- around a million more than at Beijing 2008.

Friday marks 1,000 days to go to the start of an event and Craven said he expected to see the tournament show once again that athletes can inspire the watching world.

But Craven said above all he wanted Paralympians to show once and for all that they should be seen as on a par with their Olympic peers, regretting the lingering prejudices many face in society at large.

Airport check-in, he revealed, remains one of life's irritations with the service of staff and airlines often leaving much to be desired.

"If I'm with the wife they all think she has the passports. She says, 'don't look at me, he's in charge!'," added Craven, who lost the use of both legs in a rock-climbing accident as a teenager.

"You meet it (prejudice) on a daily basis," said the 63-year-old, a five-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball and also once in track and field and swimming.

Sometimes, he lamented, he was told he couldn't fly on his own as he was perceived as a potential risk to other passengers.

"I'm president of the IPC, a knight of the realm and I'm told I can't look after myself!

"They have this negative view as to what this mythical group of people are incapable of. It's really ignorance, not malicious.

"It's all about education."

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