16 September, 2004
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) officials on Wednesday appeared confident that the momentum from last month's hugely successful 2004 Athens Games will carry over for the Paralympic Games, which begin here on Friday with a sold-out opening ceremony.
IPC chief Phil Craven said he believes that Greece and Athens definitely want to "continue the sports festival" begun last month.
Speaking after the conclusion of the IPC's executive committee meeting at a downtown Athens hotel, Craven also downplayed worries of slumping ticket sales for the Athens Paralympics.
"Tickets sales were slow, but they’re picking up, it was the same with the Olympics (a month ago)," he said, adding that total sales so far stand at around 300,000, with Athens organizers (ATHOC) pointing to a target of 500,000. Moreover, he said demand was exceedingly high for certain high-profile sports, such as swimming.
Asked about the effect the 2004 Paralympics have had on improving accessibility in the often congested and densely populated Greek capital, Craven said progress was evident, although it would be absolutely unattainable to expect Athens to become "barrier-free" in only three years "after 3,000 years of usage".
He cited a brand new system to transport people with disabilities up the Acropolis' steep steps in central Athens and a very responsive attitude by organizers in terms of venues' accessibility as positive points.
Finally, commenting on the doping specter plaguing international sports of late -- as evidenced by last month’s Olympic Games -- Craven reiterated that the IPC also holds a "no tolerance" attitude vis-a-vis prohibited substances. He singled out the sport of power lifting, which has recorded the lion’s share of doping incidents in past Paralympics, saying that if more violations arise in Athens then "we have to give close consideration to the situation."
2004 Paralympics organizers on Wednesday said 130 national delegations have arrived in Athens and are being hosted at the Paralympic Village, whereas the number of teams is expected to reach 140, after two countries officially dropped out.
Uzbekistan and Burkina Faso announced this week that they will not send Paralympic athletes to Athens. National Paralympic Committees in Papua New Guinea, Haiti, Myanmar, Vanuatu and Lebanon were previous dropouts from the Games, which begin on Friday.
Another nine teams, nevertheless, are still expected to arrive in Athens for Games.
The current total of 130 national Paralympic teams is still seven better than Sydney’s 123 Paralympic national teams of 2000.
Source: Athens News Agency