Inexpensive tickets make for family-friendly crowds at Rio's Paralympics

The Rio Paralympics may have been on life support a mere two weeks ago. But now, it seems Brazilians can't get enough of the events.

Tickets as cheap as $6 lure Brazilians to Olympic Park

The Wheelchair tennis venue at Rio's Olympic Park was sold out all weekend. (David A. Barnes/Associated Press)

The Rio Paralympics may have been on life support a mere two weeks ago. But now, it seems Brazilians can't get enough of the events — even if they don't quite understand all of them.

"I learned about Paralympic sports I had never saw before," said Denise Lacerga, who with her extended family spent the day at several Paralympic venues.

"Goalball, it's very nice. The rules [say] we have to keep quiet. It's hard for Brazilians, but that's OK, " she told CBC News on the crowded Olympic plaza.

Goalball is played by visually impaired athletes who have to listen and follow the movements of a rubber ball that jingles as players make diving saves.

'It's really cool'

Eleven-year-old Juan Marines was also unfamiliar with Paralympic sports but came away impressed.
The International Paralympic Committee says 1.9 million tickets have been sold for the games. (Chris Corday/CBC)

"I think it's amazing. They have a lot of difficulties but they can do it. It's really cool," he said.

Rio organizers needed almost $80 million US from the local and federal governments to overcome a deep funding gap for the Paralympics after dismal early ticket sales.

Critics also complained money for the Paralympics had been diverted to fix problems with the Olympics.

But Monday, top organizing officials suggested to the media the money had been well spent since so many people were enjoying the events.


Families and school children have been especially noticeable at venues.

A global campaign called #filltheseats encouraged charities to buy tickets for Brazilian schoolchildren to attend the Games.
Hundreds of strollers are lined up inside a Paralympics venue as parents and kids packed events. (Fabiana Stubrich)

Several Brazilian families who spoke to CBC News suggested inexpensive tickets were largely responsible for getting them out to events.

"We came here and my boyfriend and I are, like, wow," a woman who would identify herself only as Flavia told CBC News. 

"There are so many people. I came for the Olympics and it was not this full. This is much cheaper, before [the Olympics] you paid 100 reals ($40 Cdn)."

She said Paralympic tickets cost as little as $6 Cdn.

Great support

Canadian athletes say the nearly sold-out venues have added a lot of excitement to the competition.
Just 12 per cent of tickets to the Paralympics had been sold only a few weeks ago. (Chris Corday/CBC)

"We had heard that things wouldn't be so great with the ticket sales and we had hoped it would turn around,"said Janet McLachlan, who co-captains the women's wheelchair basketball team.

"It's so great to see people coming out to support Paralympic sport."

Canada's men's and women's wheelchair hoop squads both unfurled banners on the court after their games on Monday, thanking Brazilian fans for their support.

Bigger weekend than Olympics

The International Paralympic Committee says more than 170,000 people attended events at the main Paralympic venues on Sunday, more than on any single day of the Olympics.
More than 170,000 spectators attended Paralympic events on Sunday (Chris Corday/CBC)

"People who see Paralympic sport usually change their attitudes towards those with disabilities and that is the IPCs goal," said Craig Spence, spokesman for the International Paralympic Committee.

Spence says more than 1.9 million tickets have been sold for the Rio Paralympics, which would make it the second-most attended Paralympic competition ever, after London in 2012.

About the Author

Chris Brown

Moscow Correspondent

Chris Brown is a foreign correspondent based in the CBC’s Moscow bureau. Previously a national reporter for CBC News on radio, TV and online, Chris has a passion for great stories and has travelled all over Canada and the world to find them.


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