Paralympic Games: Are they ready for Rio 2016?

Terezinha Guilhermina of Brazil and guide Guilherme Soares de Santana cross the line to win gold in the Women's 100m T11 Final
Image caption London 2012 gold medal winner Terezinha Guilhermina of Brazil says her head is already in Rio

As the Paralympics in London draw to a close, Rio is already in the spotlight as the next city set to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.

The BBC's Maddy Savage has been finding out what Brazilian athletes and fans think their country can learn from London 2012, and what it might do differently.

Pork and papaya sausages are sizzling on the barbecue, Samba music is on the stereo and Caipirinha cocktails are being shaken and stirred at the bar.

Sadly, this isn't Rio, it's the Brazilian restaurant in the shopping arcade next to the Olympic Park. But fans Rafael Tinelli and Bernardo Medeiros, both 28, believe it offers a taste of what we can expect from their home city in four years' time.

"There is good food in Brazil, it is very relaxed and I think it is going to be a lot of fun," says Rafael who is currently studying in London and also works as a part-time carer for a 25-year-old with cerebral palsy.

"But we know there is a lot of pressure on our country, because London has done everything so well," adds Bernardos, a freelance journalist.

"Everyone was worried about how the transport would be for 2012 but it worked out. In Rio though we only have two underground lines for a similar-sized population. There has been investment in busses and trams but I think there needs to be more."

He also raises concerns about security.

"I grew up in Rio and used to be a dangerous place. Things are much better now and it is safer but we need to pay attention to this".

"We have seen the problems cause by G4S," he adds, referring to the private security company that failed to provide enough staff to work on the London games, with British soldiers stepping in to make up the numbers.

Athlete action

Rafael says his main worry is accessibility for disabled fans and athletes.

"It is easy to get around London and the Olympic Park with a wheelchair but I am not sure that it is the case yet in Rio. We are optimistic people and I think we will achieve what we need to do, but we have a lot to learn."

He is also hoping that there will also be more investment in minority sports, in a country that is "only obsessed with football right now".

Image caption Fans Rafael Tinelli and Bernardos Medeiros said, as with London, transport was a concern

For Brazilian athletes the focus is on improving their medal count when their country takes over as host nation.

Brazil was ranked 22nd in this year's Olympic Games. At the Paralympics the team had reached 8th place by the end of day nine and competitors said they were hoping to make the top five in 2016.

The country's most famous Paralympian is Alan Oliveira, 20, the man who beat South African Oscar Pistorius to gold in the T44 men's 200m final, sparking a row over the length of his blades.

"I am well prepared to work hard for the next four years and I know I will run well with our crowd and our people watching," he said following his appearance in the 4x100m relay on Wednesday.

Games Maker praise

Brazil finished second in the race but was later disqualified after officials ruled there had been an improper baton changeover.

"The most important thing [in Rio] will be the support of the Brazilian people but we also have a good organisation in charge and I think it will be a great games," he added, offering a small smile on what had been a tired and dejected post-race face.

A much larger grin came from Terezinha Guilhermina, 33, who broke her own world record in the 100m T11 category for visually impaired athletes, with her Brazilian team mates Jerusa Gerba Santos and Jhulia Santos taking silver and bronze respectively.

Image caption Sprinter Alan Oliveira said home support would be a factor in his performance

"I am leaving London with my head already in Rio," she said, moments after crossing the line wearing green and yellow pop-poms in her hair as well as a sparkly headband.

"I am getting started on my preparation as soon as I have received my gold medal."

She also praised London's Organising Committee saying she had been especially impressed with the 70,000 Games Makers who signed up to work on the Paralympics.

"I am very satisfied with the volunteers, speaking many languages, and I would also like to thank the crowd," she concluded, before rushing off to get changed for a medal ceremony that saw her dancing with her guide runner Guilherme Soares as they wrapped themselves in their flag.

Back inside the Brazilian restaurant, Rafael Tinelli and Bernardos Medeiros point out that many people in Rio are already taking English lessons to ensure they can welcome tourists and athletes and win business in 2016.

Portuguese practice

"Taxi drivers, receptionists and hotel workers are all going to lectures, because of a government initiative," says Rafael, "but it would also be nice if international visitors learnt a few words of our language, like hello, or thank you!"

Despite their home country's strong performance at the Paralympics, the two friends aren't convinced that its disabled athletes have captured Brazilians' imagination in the same way as British stars like long-distance wheelchair medallist David Weir or swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who are household names in the UK.

"In the Brazilian newspapers there hasn't been that much coverage of the Paralympics, apart from the big stories like Alan beating Oscar," says Bernardos.

"The focus is still on the Olympics or football but hopefully that can change. I think before Beijing, people just looked at these [Paralympic] athletes and felt sorry for them but now we are becoming amazed and impressed."

Ahead of a press conference on Friday, the President of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB) Andrew Parsons admitted that he had concerns about whether Rio could match London's success and profile.

"In Brazil we'll have to try to come up with something very unique to try to match this," he said.

"The games will be different. There will be an Olympic and Paralympic beach for spectators to visit, for example."

"What I have learned most in terms of the Paralympics here in London is about the promotion of the games, because LOCOG put in a lot of effort in all corners of the UK, so people felt part of the games and the festival atmosphere. And that is why 2.5 million tickets have been sold."

Brazilian brilliance

The International Paralympic Committee said it was confident that Brazil would deliver.

Image caption Brazil team assistant Manuela Bailao is confident her country can trump London

"When the games in Beijing came to an end our president called them 'the best ever games' and I think then no-one thought they would ever be surpassed, but now London has set the bar even higher," said its communications director Craig Spence.

"So who knows what will happen in Rio. I think it could go a bit further. It is going to be the first games in South America and I'm sure it will offer something different."

And cheering on the sidelines of the Olympic stadium, one of Brazil's team assistants and translators, Manuela Bailao, said she had no doubt that her country could trump London 2012.

"We are very proud to be hosting the next games. We have many young talents preparing to compete. And we have the weather. It's much better than here!"

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites