Sir Philip Craven claims 2016 was the most "challenging yet rewarding" of his Presidency ©ITG

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven has described 2016 as a "year like no other" which was the  "most challenging yet most rewarding" of his 15-year tenure.

It comes after a frenetic build-up to September's Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro which, at one stage, looked as if the Games could be cancelled or moved from Brazil amid a multitude of financial and organisational problems.

insidethegames understands that Rio 2016 chief executive Sidney Levy called IPC counterpart Xavier Gonzalez four weeks before the Opening Ceremony in order to tell them they had no money to organise the Games.

At this stage, they had already missed a deadline to pay the first installment of $4.3 million (£3.5 million/€4.1 million).

The IPC appealed directly to Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and organisers were eventually granted an extra R$150 million (£36 million/$46 million/€42 million) in Municipal Government funding.

But, despite the "drastic" cuts which also took place, Sir Philip hailed the athletic success of the event.

"In my view the Rio 2016 Paralympics were a triumph," he wrote in a New Year Message.

"Despite the challenges we faced before, during and after the Games, they arguably did more for growing the Paralympic Movement than London 2012.

Support from Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes was cited as key to the success of the event ©Getty Images
Support from Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes was cited as key to the success of the event ©Getty Images

"Thanks to the efforts of National Paralympic Committees and International Federations in developing athletes and strong competitions, they were the best ever in terms of athletic performance. 

"By reaching record global television and online audiences, they also helped raise awareness of the abilities of Para athletes to new levels.

"In my New Year’s message 12 months ago, I stressed the importance of Rio 2016 proving that Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympics were not exceptions but the norm.

"September’s Games did just that - they showed that no matter where the Paralympics are staged they will deliver, underlining the growing maturity of the Games as the world’s number one sport event for driving social inclusion."

Sir Philip, who is due to relinquish his Presidential role later this year after leading the IPC since 2001, claimed the secret to this accomplishment was that "rather than moaning about last minute cutbacks and changes, the Paralympic Movement united, rolled up its sleeves, and got on with it, working together for the greater good".

"As I said in August, it’s in our Paralympic DNA to see obstacles as an opportunity to do things differently and that’s what we did in Rio," he added. 

"We are problem solvers by nature and I would like to pay tribute to the IPC’s vice-president Andrew Parsons for the outstanding role he played in finding solutions to the many problems we faced in Brazil ahead of the Games."

The IPC also made the unprecedented decision to bar Russian Para-athletes from September's Games in response to evidence of doping in the McLaren Report.

"Now that Professor McLaren has published his second report, I strongly believe the best course of action is to draw a line in the sand and look to the future," Sir Philip said.

"By fully co-operating and working closely with the IPC Taskforce to fix the broken and compromised anti-doping system in Russia, I hope we can welcome back the Russian Paralympic Committee as an IPC member sooner, rather than later."

Rio 2016 has still been presented as a success despite the chaotic build-up and absence of Russian athletes ©Getty Images
Rio 2016 has still been presented as a success despite the chaotic build-up and absence of Russian athletes ©Getty Images

He concluded on a more general note by claiming that it is now "vital that we do not take our foot off the gas" in 2017.

"I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am to have overseen the growth and transformation of the Paralympic Movement since 2001," he said.

"I think the IPC, the Paralympic Movement and the Paralympic Games are unrecognisable from what they were and each member deserves credit for the roles they have played. 

"Following September’s elections at the IPC General Assembly in Abu Dhabi, it is imperative that my successor and the new IPC Governing Board further strengthen the IPC’s position as one of the most credible and widely respected organisations in world sport."