CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, will not be attending tonight’s Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Local organisers have confirmed that Bach, instead, will be back home in Germany attending the state funeral of former West German President Walter Scheel.
At a media briefing at the Paralympic village on Tuesday, Rio 2016 communications chief Mario Andrada confirmed Bach’s absence and that this was not connected to the disparity in the ways the IOC and IPC had dealt with the Russian dope-test scandal.
Andrada said: “We obviously feel sorry that president Bach cannot attend the Opening Ceremony as planned. We understand it was an unforeseen situation that held him in Europe.
“We have been in touch with him and our friends in the IOC ever since the Olympic Games were over. We are still learning from them. We look forward to welcoming him back to Brazil as soon as possible.”
This is the first time since 1984 that the incumbent president of the IOC has not be in attendance at the opening of the Paralympics from which Russia will be banned – unlike at the Olympic Games.
Hajo Seppelt, the German investigative reporter who ‘broke’ the Russian doping story, has suggested that IPC officials will not be the only ones disappointed. He has said that Brazilian police had been hoping to discuss Olympic ticketing issues with Bach in their inquiries into the Patrick Hickey case.
Present and correct
Although Bach will not be in Rio for the Games, the International Paralympic Committee confirmed that all 161 competing countries will as travel grants finally come through for all national paralympic committees.
IPC communications chief Craig Spence said: “The travel grants will be paid today to the countries. So all countries are attending, there are none not attending because of the late payment of travel grants.
“The 10 countries who have had difficulties, we worked to get them short term loans from the government or the IPC has paid for them to be here.”
Organisers also confirmed that ticket sales had passed the 1.6m mark, and that the opening at the Maracana is one of a number of sold out sessions.
Spence added that Rio 2016 looked set to overtake the 1.7m tickets sold at Beijing 2008 – making it the second biggest Games in Paralympics history. The record is held by London 2012 with 2.7m tickets sold.