Rio’s Paralympic Games hang in the balance as Olympic resources dry up

Elizabeth Smith of the U.S. trains for the Rio 2016 Paralympics on April 23, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Elizabeth Smith of the U.S. trains for the Rio 2016 Paralympics on April 23, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (2016 Getty Images)

It seems safe to say that the Paralympic Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro this year. At least for now.

Low ticket sales had organizers for the Paralympic games, which are set to take place from Sept. 7 to 18, talking about canceling them, but in just two days last week about 300,000 tickets were sold, and this week sales continue to be high. To date, more than 1 million tickets have been bought.

Even so, critics and experts warn that the lack of funding from the games’ organizing committee, Rio 2016, is worrisome. Shortly after the end of the Olympic Games on Aug. 21, hundreds of employees had their contracts terminated suddenly, ahead of schedule.

The reason? The inability to pay their salaries.

"The only thing they told me is that there was no money, and since the tickets were not selling, the Paralympics could not happen," one former employee, who asked not to be identified, told Fox News Latino.

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The person, who worked in a logistical capacity, added, "Most of the organization will be in the hands of volunteers, which is always tricky.”

In fact, Olympics organizers have reported that some 30 percent of the 50,000 volunteers – Brazilians and foreigners – who were recruited to help out during the games didn’t even show up.

“If a good portion of them didn’t appear for the main games, never mind the Paralympics,” the former employee said. “How do you organize something without knowing whether you have people?"

The Paralympic Games are only loosely affiliated with the Olympics. They are organized by the International Paralympic Committee which isn’t affiliated with the International Olympic Committee, although the games themselves are subsidized by the Olympics.

This year, the AP reported grants of more than $7 million that the IOC and the Rio Olympic organizers were expected to make to the 165 countries participating in the Paralympics were weeks overdue.

The delay is likely to prevent 10 nations from participating.

"These are countries with limited access to resources, and we believe it will be difficult for them to come, even if the money is paid [late]," Andre Parsons, president of the Paralympic Committee of Brazil, told FNL. 

“With the delay, they end up losing flight reservations, for example. We are talking with local governments and with the committees to try to minimize it as soon as possible," he added.

The mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, had announced that the city could make a contribution of some $ 50 million to the committee to pull off the games. But two weeks ago, a Brazilian court barred transfers of money to the IPC until it had disclosed details of its spending – which it was supposed to, but missed the deadline.

So severe budget cuts are being made – primarily in the workforce for the games, transportation costs and in the media centers. Deodoro Olympic Park, the second largest sports complex used during the Rio Olympics, will be closed and dismantled.

In an even worse scenario, part of the force of 15,000 Brazilian soldiers sent to ensure security during the Olympics also won’t stick around for the Paralympics. Some estimates say that about 5,000 will be reassigned.

Last week, 200 soldiers in Rio were sent to Rio Grande do Sul.

This is a legitimate concern in a city that has watched the homicide rates rise over the last year. Even with the additional soldiers patrolling the streets during the Olympics, 31 people were killed in the city.

The bad news may be keeping away visitors. Hotel occupancy for September is less than 50 percent, according to the Accommodations Association of Rio. That’s even lower than when the city isn’t hosting any major events, when occupancy is around 65 percent.

"Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this," IPC President Philip Craven told reporters recently. "Since becoming aware of the full scale of the problem, we have focused all of our efforts on finding solutions to the problems."

After controversies over construction and doping and American swimmers damaging bathrooms and pretending to be victimized, a lack of accessibility for disabled people at an event dedicated to them is the icing on the cake.

Although improvements have been made, especially in tourist areas, it is still difficult to move around on the poorly maintained streets in other parts of the city.

Retiree Monica Elizabeth complains about the difficulties people face every day getting around Rio on crutches or in wheelchairs.

"The city has lost many chances with the Olympics to fix much in the city,” Elizabeth told FNL. “But if it was difficult during the main event, do you imagine they give greater importance to the disabled?”