PARALYMPICS

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

RIO yes­ter­day closed a Par­a­lympic Games that many feared would be a fi­asco but which turned into a tri­umph, though marred in the fi­nal hours by the death of an Ira­nian cy­clist.

Eleven days of com­pe­ti­tion where China dom­i­nated the medals ta­ble, fol­lowed by Bri­tain, Ukraine and the United States, ended yes­ter­day with the last few events, in­clud­ing marathons and wheel­chair rugby.

At the clos­ing cer­e­mony in Rio de Janeiro’s Mara­cana foot­ball sta­dium Brazil­ian of­fi­cials were of­fi­cially to hand over to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games.

The up­beat mood in Rio, how­ever, was dark­ened late on Septem­ber 17 by the death of Ira­nian cy­clist Bah­man Gol­barnezhad, 48.

The ath­lete, who wore a pros­the­sis on his left leg, fell dur­ing a moun­tain­ous de­scent in the road race and died be­fore he could be treated in hospi­tal.

Philip Craven, the In­ter­na­tional Par­a­lympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent, called the tragedy “truly heart-break­ing”.

The Ira­nian flag flew at half mast in the Ath­letes’ Vil­lage and a minute’s si­lence was planned at the clos­ing cer­e­mony.

Nev­er­the­less, Rio was ex­pected to put on a daz­zling show at the Mara­cana, fea­tur­ing Brazil’s rich mu­sic and dance cul­ture to cel­e­brate a far bet­ter Paralympics than many had be­lieved pos­si­ble.

“This will be a time for cel­e­bra­tion ... a fi­nal act,” said the cer­e­mony’s pro­ducer Flavio Machado, who promised “many Brazil­ian mu­si­cians on stage”.

The Ja­panese say that the Rio Games have set a high stan­dard for them to fol­low.

“We have been im­pressed by our ex­pe­ri­ence across both the Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games and in­spired by the pas­sion of the Car­i­oca,” said Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee, re­fer­ring to Rio res­i­dents by their nick­name.

There had been fears that this wouldn’t be at all how the Rio Games ended.

Even be­fore they started, the Rio or­gan­is­ers’ woe­ful fi­nances in the wake of the Au­gust Olympics and a stun­ning lack of in­ter­est in tick­ets raised fears of fail­ure.

Then on the eve of the Paralympics, the Brazil­ian Se­nate pushed pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff out of of­fice in a bit­ter im­peach­ment bat­tle that left the coun­try more dis­tracted than ever. Her re­place­ment and fierce en­emy Michel Te­mer came to the open­ing cer­e­mony on Septem­ber 7 and was booed by the crowd.

There were also in­ter­na­tional ten­sions over a ban im­posed by the In­ter­na­tional Par­a­lympic Com­mit­tee on the entire Rus­sian team be­cause of al­leged state dop­ing.

But then things got bet­ter. The open­ing cer­e­mony moved view­ers with its ex­u­ber­ant set de­sign and the un­re­strained joy of the parad­ing ath­letes.

And while the sta­di­ums and are­nas were ini­tially empty, the rhythm soon picked up, with noisy and pas­sion­ate Brazil­ian fans world-class at­mos­phere.

By the end, of­fi­cials said on Septem­ber 17, they had sold 2.1 mil­lion tick­ets – less than Lon­don in 2012 but more than Bei­jing four years ear­lier. Part of that suc­cess, how­ever, was due to many tick­ets be­ing sold for as lit­tle as US$3 – or given to school chil­dren in an in­ter­na­tional fill the seats cam­paign.

The gap be­tween the Olympic and Par­a­lympic per­for­mances is grad­u­ally blur­ring with dis­abled ath­letes break­ing records af­ter records in Rio.

Among the stars were Brazil’s swim­mer Daniel Dias who added four golds, three sil­vers and two bronzes to his ex­ist­ing medal haul from Bei­jing and Lon­don, which has won him de­scrip­tions as the Michael Phelps of the Paralympics.

There was amaze­ment in the 1500m track race when Al­ge­ria’s Ab­del­latif Baka set a new record that was ac­tu­ally faster than the win­ning time by Olympic gold medal­ist Matthew Cen­trowitz in the same sta­dium a month ear­lier. – pro­vid­ing

Photo: AFP

Martina Caironi of Italy com­petes in the 100m qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion at the Par­a­lympic Games in Rio on Septem­ber 17.

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