By Barney Cullum
The verdict at the half-way point here in Brazil is that the Rio Games have delivered. Not my words, but the words of Paralympics GB’s top athletes.
Many thought the Games might flounder due to slow ticket sales, reports of inadequate accommodation and other issues.
However, swimming royalty Ellie Simmonds – who won her first Rio gold last night – said Brazil had accommodated all of the athletes’ needs and the local public had spurred her on to her latest success.
“There have been no challenges and it’s just been so much fun racing in front of these amazing crowds.”
The Estadio Aquatico was sold out again last night, as it has been for every evening session.
Wheelchair basketball captain Terry Bywater, who has led Britain through to the quarter finals with four wins out of five, has been most taken by the intensity of the spectators.
“I’ve been to five Games and people always come to the Paralympics to get inspired, but in Rio they’re coming for the sport.”
“Wheelchair basketball matters and they think the sport is fantastic here.”
15,000 spectators filled Carioca Arena One for the host nation’s clash with GB in the wheelchair basketball on Saturday night.
Played out against a soundtrack of relentless singing and tribal chants – and high-pitched shrieks at the brutal defending – it was a thrilling occasion.
“Before we flew out we heard a lot of stories, but I just want to thank Brazil because the passion has been tremendous,” added Terry.
Jordanne Whiley, the reigning Wimbledon wheelchair doubles champion, said Brazil had proved all the doubters wrong.
“Everyone was a little bit worried before we got here but once we arrived I was like, ‘what has everyone been complaining about?’”
“The Paralympic Village is beautiful and the noise on centre court has been incredible.”
“I think Paralympians both inside and outside of Brazil will get more media coverage and access to better sponsorship now because the crowds have shown how much interest there is.”