Bermuda officials owed thousands for Games
Fears that the funding crisis engulfing next month's Paralympics in Rio would prevent Bermuda's athletes from attending have proved unfounded, but they could leave some officials significantly out of pocket.
The Bermuda Paralympic Association is waiting for a reimbursement of nearly $9,000 from organisers, which Ann Lindroth, the association's president, hopes arrives before the team departs for South America.
Some $7 million in grants that Rio Olympic organisers were due to make to the 165 participating countries in the Paralympics are more than a month overdue, and as of yesterday had still not arrived, according to Lindroth.
“They are still saying they will be sending out the money,” said Lindroth. “Hopefully it comes before we leave, but I was on the account yesterday [Monday] and it wasn't here yet.”
Overall, the Games are facing a shortfall of tens of millions of dollars, despite the International Paralympic Committee getting an additional $47m from Eduardo Paes, the Rio mayor, and another $31m in state funding.
That gap has forced officials to reduce the workforce at the Games, while transport services are to be cut and media centres closed. The wheelchair fencing competition, meanwhile, has been moved to a different venue, allowing the Deodoro Olympic Park to be dismantled.
Poor ticket sales have also been a problem, and some venues, such as the Carioca Arena where Yushae DeSilva-Andrade will compete in boccia, will be partially closed due to a lack of interest.
As it stands, the Bermuda squad have all had to pay their own way to Rio for the Games, with seven members each owed $1,227.67 for economy flights.
At least the members of the Bermuda team will not go hungry, all have been credentialed with the “knife and fork”, meaning they will have meals provided for them throughout the duration of the Games. Most of the squad will also be able to stay in the athletes village.
“We will be struggling without the money,” Lindtroth said. “But it will be each one of us struggling as opposed to the alternative.
“All our tickets are already bought and charged to our individual credit cards, with the expectation that we would be getting that money back.”
Not that paying their own way is an alien concept to members of the BPA.
Aside from the ParaPan American Games, and the Paralympics, where organisers contribute towards the cost of sending athletes to compete, the BPA are an almost entirely self-funded organisation.
“We pay all the expenses for attending world championships and other events, and since we started this organisation in 1994 we've managed to honour our intention to have our athletes that reach an elite level make it to wherever that may be, and fully funded by us.
“We've had a very active fundraising campaign this year to help us get to Rio, and if we calculated it right, and don't get this money, we are at least $8,500 out of pocket. The sooner it comes the better.”
While the nearly $9,000 that is owed by the IPC may not seem like a lot, the total grant that the association received from the Bermuda Government this year was just $10,000. That was to fund two athletes, Jessica Lewis, a serious medal contender in the T53 wheelchair sprint after winning bronze at the world championships, and DeSilva-Andrade, who is ranked 33rd in the world, for the year.
In contrast, the Bermuda Olympic Association was given $150,000 in the most recent Budget, while the BPA had asked Government for a grant of $62,000 in its application forms.
Still Bermuda are better off than some other nations, whose participation is still in doubt.
“Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this,” Sir Philip Craven, the IPC president, said. “Since becoming aware of the full scale of the problem, we have focused all of our efforts on finding solutions to the problems.
“Currently, we have around ten countries who, even if the grants are paid, may struggle to cover the cost of their travel to the games. The IPC is working with them to find solutions and ensure their participation.”