Paralympics chief hails success

Paralympics head Phil Craven hailed the Athens Games as a success as competition ended yesterday, but foresaw a major review of the classification system for disabilities, suggesting it may be too complicated. «I am very upbeat about the Games,» International Paralympics Committee (IPC) President Craven told a press conference, just before the closing ceremony. He praised the Greek organizing committee and said Athens had provided «without doubt, the best group of sporting facilities in the world.» In the Athens Games, nearly 4,000 athletes from 136 countries competed over 12 days. But Craven pledged that «there will be a major review» of the complicated classification system, especially in athletics, in which athletes are slotted into categories according to their level of disability. Due to a lack of competitors within certain disability groups, athletes with different classifications often competed in the same event. But that led to some anomalies when athletes set world records within their category but wound up without a medal, which they said was frustrating for them and difficult for spectators to understand. Committee organizers said they had wider coverage than usual of the Games, with more than 3,000 journalists and 50 broadcasters traveling to Athens. Some 850,000 tickets were sold, more than twice the number forecast, IPC spokeswoman Miriam Wilkens said. Several broadcasters – including the BBC in Britain and CCTV in China – offered daily live coverage as well as highlights. But the most notable exception was the United States, where NBC paid $793 million for able-bodied Olympics broadcast rights, but the rights to the Paralympics remained unsold. «The Paralympic movement needs broadcast coverage in the United States,» said Craven. Asked about the figures, Wilkens said that the broadcast production budget for the Paralympics, covered by the IPC, was $3.5 million. On the revenue side, she said, $1.5 million came from the sale of coverage rights and $1 million from Greek state pools company OPAP. The remaining $1 million came from IPC coffers, Wilkens added. Sports for the intellectually disabled were relegated to exhibition status after it was discovered that the Spanish gold medalists in men’s basketball at the Sydney Games had faked their disabilities.