The Rio 2016 Paralympics have been thrust into crisis after it was revealed the Games face major budget cuts less than three weeks before the opening ceremony. The organising committee's failure to raise the money to fund the multi-sport event means a number of venues will be closed while some countries may be forced to withdraw entirely.
The first instalment of support grants will be paid to competing athletes but the delays means as many as 10 countries may not travel to the Games. The initial payments that ensure full participation from all 165 participating countries were meant to be awarded in July, and the delay could be fatal.
News of the cuts follows confirmation that just 12% of tickets, totalling 290,000, have been sold for the Paralympics this summer, which follow many events at the Olympic Games not being filled. Brazil's financial crisis coupled with political instability has led to a lukewarm reception to both Games.
The closure of Deodoro Park, which was due to host shooting, wheelchair fencing, equestrian and seven-a-side football, is the most significant cutback, meaning many events will have to be accommodated elsewhere. Transport services for athletes and teams have also changed, meaning competitors could face problems reaching venues on time. The total workforce for the Paralympics will also be downsized, while several media centres across the city will close.
"I am fully confident Rio 2016 will be the best Games ever in terms of athletic performance," Craven said. "You only have to look at some of the achievements from para athletes over the last two years to realise that we will witness some truly spectacular sport.
"I believe the performances of the Para athletes will act as a catalyst for social change. The Paralympics have a strong track record for changing global attitudes towards people with an impairment, and are now widely regarded as the world's number one sporting event for driving positive societal change and social inclusion.
"The opportunity we have here to make Rio, Brazil, Latin America and the world a more equitable place for all does not come around very often, so we have to grab it with both hands. Never before in the 56 year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this," he added. "Since becoming aware of the full scale of the problem, we have focused all of our efforts on finding solutions to the problems.
"At the IPC we are a relatively small but united organisation. It's in our Paralympic DNA to see obstacles as an opportunity to do things differently and that's what we are doing here. We are problem solvers by nature and fight for what we believe in."
The 15th summer Paralympic Games are scheduled to take place from 7 September to 18 September.