Paralympics get a taxpayer bailout in cash-strapped Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Rio Games organizing committee can take public money to put on the upcoming Paralympic Games.

The judicial ruling amounts to a government bailout, an embarrassment to Rio organizers who had promised they could run their operating budget using only private money. The games run Sept. 7-18.

"The money will be used mainly in services and for clients and athletes, travel grants, food — everything we need to do to make sure the athletes have their best," Rio organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada said Thursday.

Andrada attributed the revenue shortfall to the "level of ticket sales and sponsorships" for the Paralympics that has been "below our expectations."

Federal judge Guilherme Couto de Castro ruled the organizing committee can accept 150 million Brazilian reals ($46.5 million) in government money to fill the budget gap. His ruling overturned an injunction handed down last week that prohibited the organizing committee from getting taxpayer money.

Andrada said only 12 percent of 2.3 million Paralympic tickets had been sold. He said Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes was barred from buying 500,000 Paralympic tickets for school children and the poor because it could be seen as a political move to influence voting.

Andrada suggested that even the government bailout might not be large enough. Asked how much money was needed, he said about 200 million reals ($62 million) "to fulfil the obligation at the level of service that we have agreed with the International Paralympic Committee." He said "the final figure is still being assessed."

He denied that the troubled Rio Olympics, faced with last-minute expenses like repairing the athletes village, had taken money from the Paralympics.

"None of the problems we've had in the Olympics were serious enough to produce a negative impact on the Paralympics," Andrada said. "We didn't use money that had been stamped for the Paralympics."

The Rio Olympic operating budget is 7.4 billion reals ($2.3 billion) and comes from sponsorships, ticket sales, merchandise sales, and a grant from the International Olympic Committee. This is the budget to run only the games themselves.

A separate capital budget of between $10 billion to $12 billion is a mix of public and private money and was used to build sports venue, roads and subway lines.


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