The 2016 Paralympics will be an unprecedented event, the first time in 15 editions to be held in South America with more broadcast coverage than ever and an expected record number of athletes and nations in the largest number of sports on a single Paralympic program.
Part of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) vision is to enable para-athletes to inspire and excite the world.
“For Rio, we might add one extra word — inspire the entire world,” IPC president Sir Philip Craven said in a phone interview Saturday, before flying from Great Britain to Rio to mark Monday’s one-year-out date from the Opening Ceremony.
The Rio 2016 Paralympics will run from Sept. 7-18. Tickets were set to go on sale Monday.
NBC and NBCSN will air a record 66 hours of coverage of the Games. The USOC will provide live coverage at TeamUSA.org, too.
The IPC expects some 4,350 athletes from 170 countries to be represented in Rio, breaking the marks set at London 2012 of 4,237 athletes from 164 countries. The first Paralympics, in Rome in 1960, included 400 athletes from 23 countries.
Higher, too, is the number of sports, from 20 in London to 22 with the addition of canoe and triathlon.
“Our aim with next year’s Games is to build on the success of London 2012 and Sochi 2014, and so far the signs look extremely good,” Craven said in a press release. “You could not ask for a more vibrant host city.”
Craven also cited the enduring change the Paralympics will bring to Brazil, whose government passed the Inclusion of People with Disabilities Act in June. The legislation eliminates barriers in transport, housing, services, education, sport and the exercise of citizenship, according to the IPC.
“Had Rio not won the right to host the Games, then it is unlikely that improving accessibility would have been on the city’s agenda,” Craven, a five-time British Paralympic wheelchair basketball player, said in a press release. “It now is and, as we’ve seen with previous host cities, the good work done before the Games will continue afterwards benefiting millions of people.”
The competition will be without the most famous Paralympian from recent Games, South African runner Oscar Pistorius, but the U.S. and Brazil boast decorated athletes who could take on featured roles.
The Americans will hope to eclipse 100 medals for the first time at a Paralympics since 2000 and break into the top two in the medal standings for the first time since 1996. The team may feature Jessica Long, a 17-time Paralympic swimming medalist, Tatyana McFadden, a 10-time Paralympic track and field medalist (and a Winter Paralympic medalist) and Melissa Stockwell, who swam at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics as the first Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran to make Team USA, and is now a paratriathlete.
Team Brazil could include Alan Oliveira, best known for beating Pistorius at the London Paralympics. Oliveira, 23, won 100m, 200m and 400m gold at the 2013 World Championships and owns the fastest 100m ever run by a double amputee (10.57 seconds). Oliveira’s legs were amputated above the knees 21 days after he was born, due to an intestinal infection.
And swimmer Daniel Dias, who captured nine medals at Beijing 2008 and six golds at London 2012. Dias, 27, was born with not fully formed limbs and started swimming at age 16, inspired by watching the Athens 2004 Paralympics.
Then there’s 18-year-old Petrucio Ferreira, whose arm was amputated below the elbow after an accident with a grinding machine when he was 2, took up track and field in 2013 and is now the 200m world-record holder in his classification.
“The Brazilians have what I call a production line of athletes in many sports,” Craven said.