Paralympics chief demands Rio pays overdue cash to nations

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Crucial payments to fund the travel of Paralympic teams to Brazil have not been transferred, threatening the participation of some nations, the chief executive of the Paralympic movement said on Saturday.

The International Paralympic Committee said the payments, which are vital for funding travel and logistics, must be sent to its members next week. The IPC is expecting around 160 countries to participate in the Paralympics but fears withdrawals if the cash isn't received.

''Our number one priority is that the first instalment of support grants which the organizing committee should have paid to all participating National Paralympic Committees at the end of July, are paid in the coming week,'' IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzalez said in a statement.

''These grants are vital to many countries paying for their travel to the games in Brazil. If unpaid, they seriously threaten a country's participation at Rio 2016.

''We hope by early next week to have a clearer picture of the situation Rio 2016 currently finds itself in and the solutions we are trying to find,'' Gonzalez said.

The late payments are one of the problems threatening the successful delivery of the Sept. 7-18 Paralympics by the financially-challenged Rio organizers, with sluggish ticket sales also troubling the IPC.

''All week we have been working closely with all parties involved to try and find solutions to the issues the Rio 2016 organizing committee currently has in order to minimize the potential impact on next month's Paralympic Games,'' Gonzalez said.

''This has included looking at how we can bring in additional funding and making some adjustments to the scope and services provided to all stakeholders. With the games fast approaching, time is of the essence, and the organizing committee must find a resolution early next week.''

Asked about the IPC statement, Rio organizers said: ''The ongoing success of the Olympic Games makes us confident of also delivering successful Paralympic Games.''

But Rio Games spokesman Mario Andrada acknowledged earlier Saturday that tickets sales are ''well below expected'' levels.

''We tried a series of measures and it seemed that they were not effective, so we decided to finish and get done with the selling of the Olympic tickets,'' Andrada said. ''As (at) previous games, we rely on the excitement and the energy produced by the Olympic Games in order to positively influence the Paralympic tickets. That has proved to be a correct strategy.

''We (have) begun to see people looking for Paralympic tickets now that some of the Olympic tickets are sold out. A new marketing media and ad campaign is ready to be deployed only for Paralympic-specific tickets. Several of the games did that before.''

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Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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