Britain’s Paralympic squad will prepare for the 2016 Rio Paralympics from a base in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.
The British Paralympic Association (BPA) made the announcement in the city, watched by Prince Harry as part of his South American tour.
BPA signed an agreement with the city and the state government of Minas Gerais that will see the ParalympicsGB team prepare and train in Belo Horizonte in the lead-up to Rio 2016.
TeamGB, Britain’s Olympic team, will also prepare for Rio 2016 in Belo Horizonte, which is in the south-east of Brazil, a one-hour flight from Rio.
Ben Quilter, the London 2012 Paralympics judo bronze medallist, who was in the city for the signing of the agreement, said on Twitter: “From what I have seen of Belo Horizonte this will be a great city to prepare @ParalympicsGB ahead of #Rio2016 @MinasTenisClube.”
Following “major accessibility upgrades”, the main pre-games training centres will be the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, the state’s top university, and the Minas Tenis Clube sports club.
The signing of the agreement took place alongside a seminar organised by the British Consulate for senior representatives from British and Brazilian businesses, and during the build-up to England’s final World Cup match, against Costa Rica, which took place in Belo Horizonte.
Prince Harry said: “I am delighted that the BPA has formed such a close partnership with the city of Belo Horizonte.
“London 2012 was a fantastic success and the Paralympic Games has moved on to a new level of excellence and excitement.”
Marcio Lacerda, the mayor of Belo Horizonte, said that Rio 2016 and this summer’s football World Cup would create “a lasting legacy that will benefit our city and our people”.
He said: “Working with the BPA, we have already taken a great step by upgrading our sports and accommodation facilities, making them more accessible to those with disabilities.
“This is yet another great moment for our city and we will ensure that every member of ParalympicsGB and Team GB are welcomed with passion and respect, ensuring that they are provided with the best facilities to help them prepare for Rio 2016.”
Belo Horizonte was designed in 1897 to hold a maximum population of 100,000, but it has since swelled to 2.5 million.
The city has some challenges when it comes to access, and its location in a mountainous region of Brazil requires constant investment to improve access for disabled people, according to researchers.
It has taken some action to address those barriers, including a municipal order to ensure pavements are more accessible, and improving access to buses by introducing seating for disabled and older people and widening corridors.
But disabled campaigner Alessandro Fernandes, who lives in Belo Horizonte, says in his blog that there is still much to do to improve access.
He says that most access in restaurants, cafes, universities and libraries in Belo Horizonte consists of “poorly made adaptations that mask the problem and make us believe that we are in an adapted environment”.
25 June 2014
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com