Paralympics 2018: Mexico 2018 host fears empty seats

TV coverage of the Paralympics will finally get out of the shadows on Tuesday, as the 92nd Parapan American Games open. The Rio de Janeiro Games were overshadowed by a row over empty seats…

Paralympics 2018: Mexico 2018 host fears empty seats

TV coverage of the Paralympics will finally get out of the shadows on Tuesday, as the 92nd Parapan American Games open.

The Rio de Janeiro Games were overshadowed by a row over empty seats at the Olympic Stadium, which drew the ire of International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Sir Philip Craven.

But sport lost out to media coverage, and coverage has remained similarly sedate since those Games.

The Games open in Mexicali, Mexico with 43,075 athletes and officials from 44 countries participating.

As has become the tradition, the opening ceremony will be held in the 60,000-capacity Estadio Panamericano, with no national television cameras for the ceremonies to follow.

Not that Rio director of ceremonies Carlos Miguel Pinzon will be under any illusions as to what he is actually getting.

“Those [parallel] Paralympic Games did not help the Paralympic movement,” said Pinzon, speaking to BBC Sport.

“But there is nothing else left. The opening ceremony is what we want to show the world.”

The first thing IPC officials will be waiting to do on Tuesday is to check that there are no empty seats in the stadium.

Despite protests by the International Press Organisation, 12 Russian Paralympic athletes are still allowed to compete in the Games after being cleared of doping and retiring from international competition, but with a blanket ban on Russian Paralympic committee members staying in place.

“We need to see if there are no questions left over about participation by Russians,” said Pinzon.

It is an issue that has been heavily discussed by the IPC in recent days and has done little to assuage fears that even if the story – following both Russia’s track-and-field and boxing teams – were to be covered in full, it may be deemed a major story only in Mexico and confined to the morning papers.

The IPC remains focused on ensuring the Games are seen everywhere, despite some elements of the media opting to watch in the shadow of the Rio parades.

“I think the International Olympic Committee have been a great partner, they’ve given us all the international media coverage we need, but here in these Parapan Am Games there’s a bit of a spotlight on us because we are the Olympics’ partners,” added Pinzon.

“So for the moment we are used to that environment. We are adapting, we are getting better, and we need to let people see the spectacle on the sport, not on the ceremony.”

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