Making no allusions to the organisational chaos facing Brazil’s Paralympics – due to start next week – President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has hosted a send-off for Portugal’s 37 hopefuls, telling them, “now is the time to serve your country”.
At a ceremony at the Palace of Carriages in Lisbon, also attended by prime minister António Costa and parliamentary president Ferro Rodrigues, Marcelo said he would be following the games “at a distance” and was keeping his fingers tightly-crossed.
“It won’t be an easy task (to serve Portugal),” he agreed – referring to the country’s Olympians rather lack-lustre performance (bringing home just one bronze medal for judo) last month, but he said “thousands and thousands of Portuguese” will be rooting for the inspiring group competing in seven different sports.
As international media has been stressing, Brazil’s Paralympics have been “saddled with a laundry list of problems” – many of them financial, as the country admitted to running out of money for the event just two weeks ago.
Added to this, the controversy over a bizarre PR campaign run by Vogue Brazil which photo-shopped (or rather chopped) the limbs off celebrity ‘ambassadors’, with the message: “We are all Paralympians” – which went down like a lead-balloon over social media.
Today, as Portuguese athletes touch down in Rio, the UK’s Telegraph is reporting that “countries arriving have been forced to clean ‘grimy’ apartments in the Athletes Village and arrange their own transportation during the games” as a result of “swingeing cuts” that have had to be made to the event’s budget.
Dismal ticket sales, however, have ‘picked up’ encouragingly, to the point that over a million have been sold, says the paper.