Rio chiefs fear Paralympics could fall flat as seats remain empty

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Less than a week before the Paralympics opens, organisers are hoping that a late surge of interest will help them to fill seats, stretch budgets and avoid criticism that the second stage of Rio 2016 will be remembered as the “neglected Games”.

Financial cuts, downgraded facilities, volunteer shortfalls and poor ticket sales have overshadowed the countdown to the opening ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium on Wednesday, prompting fears that the events could be even more sparsely attended than for the Olympics last month.

However, athletes – who are now arriving at Galeão international airport – hope the atmosphere can be salvaged by a late marketing push.

The Paralympic torch relay, which got under way last Thursday, is seen as the best opportunity to drum up public enthusiasm. Barely half of the 2.5 million tickets for the 500 medal events have been sold, despite prices as low as 10 reais (£2.30) – a quarter of the cheapest seat prices at the Olympics.

An online campaign was launched in the UK last week – #filltheseats – to buy tickets for Brazilian children. With support from major donors, including Sainsbury’s and Allianz, it was already 10 times above its initial target after eight days. Donovan Ferreti, the ticketing director of Rio 2016, said he had been encouraged by a pick-up in local demand from Rio residents in the past week. “We have a long way to go, but we are happy with the last-minute demand,” he said. “It’s really affordable – cheaper than going to see a movie. We are telling people they can have a great time with high-performance competition and have a great day out in the Olympic Park.”

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