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National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) declared themselves impressed by the progress made towards staging the Rio 2016 Games after visiting the city for the first NPC Open Day in the history of the Paralympic Movement.
More than 40 delegates from 17 countries spanning the five continents spent two days in Rio de Janeiro being updated on the project by the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and visiting competition sites across the city.
While Rio 2016 and previous Games organising committees had already hosted numerous open days for National Olympic Committees, this was the first time such an event had been tailored specifically for NPCs – the organisations that prepare the athletes from their respective countries for the Games.
And the overwhelming response from the NPCs after spending Tuesday and Wednesday learning more about the Games preparations was positive.
Hans Safstrom, Sport Director at the Swedish Paralympic Committee, has been following the build-ups to summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games since 2000. He said: “I was here in November and even since then we can see that a lot of things have happened. For example at the athletes’ village, the last time work had started on three buildings, and now they are finished and there is a lot more building happening.
“Last time we were told about the changes to be done at the athletics stadium, now the work has started. Also there’s the construction work in the port area and on the roads coming through the mountains from Barra (where the main venue cluster will be) to the city. Things have happened. I think so far Rio is looking really good and I look forward to coming back and seeing more progress.”
Jordan Bridal, Senior Paralympic Games Manager at the Canadian Paralympic Committee, also reported progress since his previous visit, last year. “It’s been fantastic. You can see the progress, you can see how far they have come over the last year. It’s always beneficial to be able to see things with your own eyes, as opposed to just reading reports. Obviously there’s still a long way to go, but there always is with more than two years to go, so we’re really happy with all the progress we’ve seen so far."
Meanwhile, the Irish Paralympic Committee used its Twitter account to highlight progress on the athletes’ village, João Havelange Olympic Stadium – where athletics will be staged – and the Olympic Park in Barra.
Andrew Parsons, the President of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee and Vice-President of the International Paralympic Committee, was pleased to hear the reactions of the visitors. “The feedback so far is very positive,” he said. “When visiting the Paralympic Village, and when walking in the Olympic Park viewing the works, the impression that things were not moving vanishes.”
Angelica Mastrodomenico, Head of Games Operations at the Italian Paralympic Committee, stressed the importance of having an open day specifically for NPCs. “There are obviously differences between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, for example the venues are not always the same, so it’s important to have different open days so you can focus specifically on the Paralympic Games.”
The visitors were also inspired by the special atmosphere that Rio is famous for. Asked for her impressions on her first visit to the city, Mastrodomenico’s response was emphatic: “Super! No more words are needed!” Bridal added: “Rio is a town that embraces sport and embraces the culture of what the Paralympics represent. Everyone that we’ve met has been extremely welcoming and we know this will be an exceptional feeling when we come for the Games themselves.”
Kunio Nakamori, the Secretary General of the Japan Paralympic Committee, said: “It’s been really useful to get an overview of the Games. I think and I feel that Rio 2016 will be very cheerful and happy Games.”
Mario Cilenti, Rio 2016's Director of NOC & NPC Services and Olympic and Paralympic Village, said the committee has received useful feedback during the event. "We know the importance of dialogue and working closely together with our stakeholders and we will use these insights and discussions to further develop and fine tune our services to National Paralympic Committees and their athletes, who will be the heart and soul of the Rio 2016 Games.”
The IPC hope Rio 2016’s innovation will be followed by future organising committees. Qayser Sandchev, the organisation's NPC Relations Manager, said: “This was the first time an organising committee has held an open day for NPCs and it has proven to be a success which future Games organisers should look to repeat. The mood was positive and the NPCs leave assured that Rio is on track to deliver a great Games in 2016.”