David Owen

Here’s a fact: in 2014 - a Winter Games year - the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) generated revenue of €12.51 million (£10.5 million/$14 million).

Here’s another fact: in 2014 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) generated revenue of $1.828 billion (£1.3 billion/€1.6 billion).

To make the comparison utterly clear, that is to say $1.828 thousand million.

Reading those figures is really all you have to do to understand that the IPC’s affairs are likely to remain hitched to those of Big Brother, the IOC, for the foreseeable future.

It is certainly worth bearing them in mind at the outset of a Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil, which, while no doubt providing an emotion-charged, frequently awe-inspiring spectacle of sport, seems highly unlikely to maintain the momentum instilled by the last two Summer Games in Beijing and London.

While the human value of the Paralympics is probably unmatched by any other sporting event, while their legacy for host cities is more obvious and easier for non-sports fans to appreciate than the Olympics themselves, unless and until parasport’s custodians can persuade more of us to pay to watch events outside the Olympic/Paralympic ambit they will find it hard to escape the relationship of dependence in which they now find themselves.

The Paralympic Movement generates finances which are dwarfed by their Olympic counterparts ©Getty Images
The Paralympic Movement generates finances which are dwarfed by their Olympic counterparts ©Getty Images

With revenues of the scale that the IPC now enjoys, how could you begin to justify the capital cost of facilities for a self-standing multi-sports event for more than 4,000 athletes?

It makes much more sense to follow in the footsteps of the biggest multi-sports event of them all, using the infrastructure assembled for that purpose, even at risk of being saddled with a slight aura of "after the lord mayor’s show" - an aura which, I have to say, the Paralympics banished comprehensively, if I fear temporarily, in London.

The only alternative, as far as I can see, would be to somehow finance construction of a permanent Paralympic Games facility, perhaps in Bonn or Stoke Mandeville, to which the event would return year after year.

Even then you would face the problem of what to do about the Winter Paralympics.

These financial realities make the situation that has arisen over the Russian affair all the more interesting.

While 270-odd Russian athletes were admitted ultimately into the Rio 2016 Olympics, enough for Russia to claim fourth spot in the medal table, the IPC has taken a much sterner line, suspending the Russian Paralympic Committee last month with immediate effect due to its "inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code".

This has brought the IPC and its President Sir Philip Craven much favourable press.

But, quite apart from the dire risk of being struck off Vladimir Putin’s Christmas card list, it appears to have opened a rift with the body that, under any sensible reading of the situation, is likely to remain the IPC’s long-term - and heavily senior - partner.

We cannot say for sure that IOC President Thomas Bach’s decision not to attend Wednesday’s Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony had anything to do with this difference of opinion over how to deal with those Russians.

But let’s just say it meant that I was not in the tiniest bit surprised this week on reading my colleague Dan Etchells’s story on the subject.

According to Etchells, Bach will attend the official state mourning ceremony for Walter Scheel, a former President of West Germany.

IOC President Thomas Bach will not attend the Rio 2016 Paralympic Opening Ceremony ©Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach will not attend the Rio 2016 Paralympic Opening Ceremony ©Getty Images

This rift is going to have to be patched up - the financial imperatives I have already outlined will require it.

But I wonder whether this will end up being an early, vital task for Sir Philip Craven’s successor.

The 66-year-old Brit is approaching the three-year point in his fourth and final term as IPC President.

The IPC Governing Board’s unanimous decision on Russia is enabling him to inhabit the moral high ground in the final stages of his long, generally successful Presidency, certainly in the west. 

I cannot see what, barring an equally unlikely Russian about-face, might induce him to adopt a more emollient stance.

But equally I cannot see how in the medium-to long-term the Paralympic Movement can allow itself to remain so out of step with its pre-eminent partner.