Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Fri September 16 2016

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  • Greg Custer | September 16, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    The 2016 Paralympics: Obrigado, Brasil

    The 2016 Paralympics: Obrigado, Brasil

    Photos by Greg Custer

    It’s been an unprecedented run for Brazil, now in the final days of its third mega-event moment. The 2014 World Cup is fading from memory, the August 2016 Olympics crowned a success, and the Paralympics wrap up this weekend. The World Cup and Olympics gave us highs and lows both on and (too frequently) off the fields of play.

    The World Cup and Olympics are so massive; you can expect the host country to suffer an emotional letdown once the stands are cleared. By the time the Paralympics takes its turn, Venues are being disassembled (or sit silent). The world’s media has moved on, and global brand sponsors like NBC, Coke and Dow Chemicals have packed it in. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has pretty much checked out.

    This year the Paralympic games were almost canceled, a victim to lackluster ticket sales, and Rio de Janeiro State’s financial crisis. It fell to the Cariocas (Rio citizens) to make or break the 2016 Paralympics. And boy did they respond. CNN reported “Only 12 percent of available tickets had been sold a month before the Games began, but 1.5 million have been snapped up in the past three weeks.”

    History was made last Saturday when a record 167,000 attend competition at the Barra Olympic Park, the most ever across one day of competition at either the Olympic or Paralympics in Rio. The upsurge in ticket sales made the Brazilian Paralympics the second biggest Games in terms of ticketing (after London), with a 1.9 million sold.

    I’m so proud to say I was there.

    Seeing the world’s iconic athletes and superstars may indeed be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But if the Olympic movement wants to proclaim its global relevance for humanity, the Paralympic athletes are its true champions.

    At the Paralympics, it’s not about drug testing, medal counts, or bad behavior. For spectators and participants, it’s the better angels of our humanity who prevail.

    • At track and field finals for the long jump, three Paralympic world records fell in 20 minutes.
    • During the 4 x 100-meter medal round, spectators were urged to remain silent, allowing baton passes between hearing-impaired runners.
    • The seven-player, reduced field soccer completion has players who are blind, relying on teammate communication to thread between defender, and (yes) score goals.
    • And most remarkably, the men’s 1500-meter medal round featured four runners who ran faster than the Olympic gold medalist. That’s right, look it up.

    And so the final Olympic lap for this battered and forlorn nation is this: rise above political and economic problems and use the sunset of their Olympic moment in ways we should all celebrate.

    Obrigado Brasil, Obrigado RIO. Obrigado Cariocas.

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Greg Custer All Things LatAm

Greg Custer Greg Custer is a California native with more than 35 years working in various international travel industry capacities. He spent 14 years in aviation (TWA, Mexicana, Aerocalifornia). With a love for studying all things Latin America, (BA/MA UCLA, Latin American Studies) he is a leading authority on travel agent educational programs for Latin American tourism boards. Greg is fluent in written and spoken Spanish and has conducted hundreds of training workshops for travel agents. He is an accomplished travel photographer and author (with wife Jane) of the “Magic of Mexico” travel agent study guide. He resides in Ajijic (Jalisco) Mexico, enjoying one foot in the modern world and the other in Mexican pueblo life.
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