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Rio 2016 Paralympics: Games put problems aside for gala opening

 Agencies |  2016-09-08 01:34:38.0  |  Rio De Janeiro

Rio 2016 Paralympics: Games put problems aside for gala opening

A Russian doping scandal and claims that the athletes’ classification system is being manipulated have made for a rocky start for the Games, which were also hit by serious financial concerns and worries over ticket sales.

But less than three weeks after the flame went out on South America’s first Olympics, Rio welcomes 4,300 Paralympians hoping to pull another successful event out of the fire.

Russian para-athletes, who finished second behind China in the London 2012 medals table, were last month barred from 12-day Games by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) following a World Anti-Doping Agency report which alleged a vast state-sponsored doping program.

Separately UK Athletics will review classifications after the Games, according to the BBC, following concerns that athletes were being mismatched, creating an unfair advantage. “We are here to win medals, but within both the letter and the spirit of the Paralympics,” insisted British Paralympic Association chief Tim Hollingsworth.

The Games have also been overshadowed by financial worries and slow ticket sales. But organisers have reported a dramatic turnaround since the end of the Olympics, when only 300,000 tickets had been sold.

Despite half-empty venues dogging last month’s Olympics, Rio 2016 Paralympic organisers said that 1.5 million tickets had been sold and they hope that all 2.5 million will go.

Top stars in Rio include Iranian powerlifter Siamand Rahman, Britain’s wheelchair racer David Weir and China’s blind sprinter Liu Cuiqing. Two new events -- canoe-kayak and triathlon -- make their appearance on the 22-sport menu, with competitors from 161 nations.

Six countries are sending athletes for the very first time, and Syrian swimmer Ibrahim Al-Hussein, who lost a leg in an explosion in his nation’s civil war, and Iranian discus thrower Shahrad Nasajpour make up a two-strong refugee team.                       

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