Craven calls Paralympics ‘the best ever’ 

It became a cliché that former International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch would proclaim each Olympic Games to be "the best ever." But in the case of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games there may be something to the proclamation.

At the closing ceremonies in Whistler Sunday, International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven used the words "the best ever Winter Paralympic Games," to describe the event.

The numbers don't lie. The Paralympic Winter Games sold almost 230,000 tickets over two ceremonies and 10 days of competition for a sell rate of 85 per cent - the most tickets ever sold for a Winter Paralympic Games.

The reach of the Games was also beyond what was seen at past Games, with more than 50 hours of broadcasting in Canada alone, and the unprecedented decision to broadcast both ceremonies and several sledge hockey events live.

The Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium reported that some 5.4 million Canadian viewers tuned into the closing ceremonies in Whistler, and 13.6 million tuned into a portion of television coverage over 10 days.

Paralympic Sport TV, which broadcast the Paralympics over the Internet, had 50,000 views per day, or more than the Summer Games in Beijing.

On Sunday night at the Canadian Paralympic Committee's wrap up party, Pfizer Canada announced it was extending its sponsorship of the Canadian Paralympic team an additional five years and making a $1 million commitment to the CPC. Pfizer was signed on as a partner until 2012. The $1 million continues Pfizer's association with the CPC until 2017.

Merchandise sales also remained strong through the Paralympic Games. And while the exact numbers have not been released the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) said on Monday that the $1.75 billion budget for the Olympic and Paralympic Games will balance and likely result in a surplus. That figure doesn't include security or the cost of infrastructure like the Canada Line and Sea to Sky Highway upgrade.

That promise to balance the budget includes additional money pledged by the IOC to cover any shortfalls resulting from the loss of sponsorship due to the global financial crisis.

The Province of B.C. also justified its investment in the Olympics and Paralympics this week by pointing to 23 new business partnerships that were signed as a result of the Games, as well as 27 other potential agreements that are in the works. The province said the deals were signed as a result of the provincial Business Hosting Program, which included events and event tickets for roughly 11,000 participants during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

However, the opposition NDP Party suggested that most of the deals held up by the province were being discussed before the Games and that many would likely have happened anyway without wining, dining and entertaining business leaders.

The Conference Board of Canada suggested that the immediate economic benefit of hosting the Games is around $750 million in 2010 alone.

The 2014 Games organizers in Sochi paid special attention to the 2010 Games. For example, they've taken a page from VANOC's book by creating a single organizing committee to oversee both the Olympics and Paralympics, something that had never been done before.

"We make one organizing committee for both Games," said Evgeny Bukharov, the director of Paralympic Games Integration and Coordination for Sochi 2014. "We hope and try to pay equal attention and have an equal approach to both Games.

"For us it is very important to host a Paralympic Games. We have more than 13 million people (in Russia) with a disability. We think these Games, they will establish a long time legacy for the people and help them integrate into society."

And while Russia didn't field a sledge hockey team in the 2010 Games, the program is on its way. At the last national sledge hockey championships in Russia there were 14 teams competing.




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