RIO DE JANEIRO-Organizers of the 2016 Games sought Sunday to explain their use of public funds to host the Paralympics after a late surge in ticket demand left Rio with the second-highest sales ever for the event.
Rio 2016, the local organizing committee, said it has sold more than 2.1 million tickets for the Paralympics, which end Sunday, out of a total 2.5 million available. The London Paralympics in 2012 saw the highest sales at 2.7 million tickets.
"It's unbelievable to think that just four weeks ago we had sold 200,000 tickets," International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven said at a press conference.
Rio 2016 attributed the late surge in tickets to a tendency by Brazilians to buy tickets at the last minute.
Though Rio 2016 originally cited weak Paralympic ticket sales as a key motive for seeking a government bailout last month, organizers didn't rule out taking more taxpayer money as the committee winds down its operations in the coming months.
Rio 2016 said Sunday it may use taxpayer money for up to 1% of its total budget, excluding sponsorships from state-owned companies.
The committee's website puts its budget at 7.4 billion Brazilian reais ($2.27 billion). But Chief Executive Officer Sidney Levy said Sunday that Rio 2016 has decided instead to use the $2.8 billion figure provided in its 2009 bid for the Games, which is 23% higher at current exchange rates.
Mr. Levy attributed the apparent rise in costs to currency fluctuation, though he said about half of Rio 2016's income and expenses were in dollars and half were in reais. Asked why such a ratio wouldn't create a hedge against the exchange rate, Mr. Levy said, "Well, it's not really half and half, it's approximately half and half." He declined to provide a new budget in reais or a more precise estimate of how much public money the committee will need.
Rio 2016 also says they received less money than expected from sponsors, and more generally blamed Brazil's recession.
Rio 2016 frequently boasted in the years after Brazil won the right to host the Olympics that it would be exclusively funded by private sources like sponsorships, ticket sales and licensing rights. As recently as July 21, Rio 2016 lawyers argued in court that the committee had no funding deficit.
But on August 4, the Brazilian president's cabinet chief told reporters that authorities were preparing to bail out the organizing committee.
Rio's city hall offered 150 million reais, of which the committee has spent 30 million. That money went to travel grants for national Paralympic committees.
At current exchange rates, Rio 2016 could take another 60 million reais or so from the municipal government and fall below the 1% figure provided by Mr. Levy.
Not included in that percentage is about 66.5 million reais in marketing deals from state-run entities including national oil company Petró leo Brasileiro SA, export-promotion agency Apex Brasil, and government lottery Loterias da Caixa. The deals were announced after Rio 2016 executives traveled to Brasí lia for emergency meetings with federal-government officials and as Paralympic groups began publicly complaining of delayed travel grants from the organizing committee.
Rio 2016 officials portrayed their contributions as economic decisions rather than public handouts.
"We had to pass through a very judicious process and prove to them that the investment in the Olympics made sense," Chief Commercial Officer Renato Ciuchini said. "I've gotten feedback that all of them are very happy."
Critics say state-controlled companies in Brazil are typically run by political appointees and often behave as de facto extensions of the government
Because it relies on private funding for the vast majority of its expenditures, Rio 2016 is held to a lower standard of transparency than the government. Committee officials say they meet the same requirements as companies on Brazil's stock market, publishing annual statements that are audited by the local division of Grant Thornton International.
But the suddenness with which Rio 2016 began seeking public money prompted calls from prosecutors to open the committee's books first.
"We don't have any way of knowing if, for example, they spent 30 million reais on a contract for potato chips," federal prosecutor Sé rgio Luiz Pinel Dias said last month.
Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said Sunday the committee's sponsors know how it has spent their money, and that it will provide a more detailed breakdown of the funds it receives from City Hall. He also tried to dispel concerns about misuse of taxpayer money.
"If we took the money from the Paralympics and hid it in the Olympics to take a bite out of City Hall, you don't think the regulators at City Hall would catch it?" Mr. Andrada said. "We're talking about the real world here."
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