New Zealand confirms sending full team to Rio Paralympic Games despite money issues

Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe poses for photos during her training session at the Jellie Park pool in Christchurch. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe poses for photos during her training session at the Jellie Park pool in Christchurch. Photo / Greg Bowker.

New Zealand will still send a full team to compete at next month's Rio Paralympic Games despite news of several countries potentially missing out because of a lack of money for the event.

Crisis talks were held today by International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven with the Brazilian government and Rio's mayor in a late attempt to preserve the quality of the games in recession-battered Brazil.

The IPC have warned that countries might not be able to travel to Rio if they do not receive grants that should have been paid last month. An effort is underway to distribute US$7 million in overdue grants to help nations get to Brazil for the Paralympics, which are on from September 7-18.

Paralympics New Zealand are still waiting on the first grant from the IPC. They should have received 60 per cent of funding available by now to help the team travel to Rio, with the remaining 40 per cent paid after the Games.

PNZ booked travel arrangements some time ago and remain committed to sending a full team to Rio of 29 athletes and 31 support staff. They will be on the ground from September 5-20.

They have so far been able to pay for their travel costs by a combination of sponsors, High Performance Sport New Zealand funding and fund-raising activities but this was a matter of shuffling the budget to temporarily cover the shortfall as opposed to a solution. PNZ received $1.955 million from HPSNZ during 2016 and are targeting 18 medals in Rio, including 12 golds.

"Our para athletes have put years of hard work and preparation into the Games and want to compete against the best in the world," PNZ chief Fiona Allan said. "It would be disappointing to not have all 178 countries compete. Right now our primary goal is to focus on the New Zealand Paralympic team and ensuring we create the best high performance environment on the ground in Rio."

Craven said an injunction prevents new public funding going toward the Paralympics unless the Rio 2016 organising committee opens their books. He said mayor Eduardo Paes was prepared to deliver 150 million reals (US$47 million) to cover costs and "to ensure the success of the Games".

Paes says the money is vital for the Games, which he says have failed to attract sponsors and sell tickets.

Craven described the situation as "pretty precarious," but doesn't believe any sports will be cut from the Paralympic programme.

"If no extra funding is available then the organising committee will have to implement further cuts to the Paralympic Games on top of the cuts we have already made alongside the IOC and Olympics."

Cuts initially could come in the form of fewer media centres and VIP transport and Allan said this would have a negligible affect on PNZ.

The Paralympics are due to see more than 4350 athletes from 178 countries compete in 22 sports, with 526 medal events taking place.

- additional reporting AP

- NZ Herald

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