(Vatican Radio) The Paralympic Games 2016 will get underway later Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro following the opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.The 11-day competition will see more than 4000 athletes taking part from 161 countries.
The games have not been without problems. There have been concerns over its budget and slow ticket sales have plagued the sporting event.
However, organizers say a late surge has seen sales jump from around 200,000 to 1.6 million.
The games in London were considered a turning point in sports for people with disabilities and the organizers and athletes are hoping that these games will leave behind a legacy of accessibility.
Cristina Gangemi is a disability consultant to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.
She agrees that the reaction to the games four years ago was one of wonderment rather than sympathy.
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's interview with Cristina Gangemi
“I think that what happened in London 2012 was that we saw a complete shift in the benchmark for Paralympic sport… it was certainly something that changed the way in which we saw disabled people…”
Cristina notes that even for the media covering the Paralympics in the British capital was a learning curve. “You could see the journalists, you could see all of the people that surrounded the games, they really grew in their understanding of what it meant to be human.”
She adds, that when she sees Paralympic athletes competing, it says to her that “everybody is equal and every single person has the potential to achieve what’s right and what’s possible for their own body.”
Asked about her hope’s for the Rio Paralympic Games, Cristina says that she would like to see the “whole of Brazil really getting behind the games and behind the athletes and watching and cheering and celebrating as people take part.” She also hopes that the message of the games will be one of everybody celebrating the spirit and dignity of the human person.
The Paralympic Games ends on September 18 with the closing ceremony.