The 2016 Paralympic Games kicked off in Rio de Janeiro with a glittering opening ceremony at the Maracana stadium on Wednesday. As many as 154 countries are taking part in the Games, up from 115 in London four years ago. After a successful Olympics, in which almost 100 world and Olympic records were broken, the Rio Paralympics started with a bang with a colourful and eventful opening ceremony.

Each contingent carried a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, with the country’s name on one side and the photos of its athletes on the other. Once the jigsaw was completed, all the faces of the competing athletes came together to form the shape of a human heart, which began to beat in sync with the music.

There were also stunts performed such as a man wheelchairing himself through a ring of fire. Russia, who have been completely banned from taking part in the Paralympics after reports emerged of state-sponsored doping, managed to sneak in their flag via the Belarusian contingent.

It must have been a beautiful spectacle to watch, but unfortunately no one in India was able to catch it on television because the Paralympic Games are not being broadcast by any channel. Star Sports, which was the official Indian broadcaster of the Rio Olympics last month, did not bid for the rights of the Paralympics. Neither did any of the other Indian sports channels such as Sony ESPN, Ten Sports and public broadcaster Doordarshan Sports.

Star Sports, which dedicated eight channels – four in standard definition and four in high definition – for the Olympics, telecast over 3,000 hours of action during the Games, along with having 14 live feeds and 36 concurrent feeds on its digital platform Hotstar. It had also hired Indian and international former Olympians as its experts, including Ian Thorpe, Viren Rasquinha, Anjali Bhagwat, Rehan Poncha and Prakash Padukone.

However, it appears the Paralympics is just not worth the effort. When contacted Star Sports on email to ask why the Paralympic Games were not being telecast, this was the reply: “Please be informed that digital and broadcasting rights vary from series to series. We regret to inform you that currently we do not have digital or broadcasting rights for Paralympics Games.”

Stating the obvious.

When we replied to them asking why they did not bid for the rights, there was no further reply. A similar email query to DD Sports, which had showed India-centric action during the Olympics, also went unanswered.

Largest contingent, but nowhere to watch

This means that no one living in India will be able to watch the Paralympic Games on TV – in a year when the country is sending its largest ever contingent of 19 athletes to compete. According to this list, India is among 65 countries in the world – mostly in South Asia, South-East Asia and central Africa – where the Paralympic Games will not be shown on TV. In comparison, the United States’ National Broadcasting Company, or NBC, will show more than 70 hours of the Paralympic Games across its platforms, up from just six in London 2012.

Countries that have the right to show the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games on their channels (Image credit:

Last Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “The people of India will be enthusiastically cheering for our athletes representing India at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, starting 7th Sept.” Oh, the irony. Fortunately, sports fans in India and in all countries where the Paralympics are not being shown on TV can watch the games online at and

This is not the only example of the general apathy towards para-athletes in India. Even before the Games began, the country’s contingent was left red-faced when the International Paralympic Committee objected to the kits provided to them for the opening ceremony for not conforming to its protocol. The blazers did not have the white strip of the Indian national flag, and did not carry the country’s name on the back, as per IPC protocol. Even the IPC logo was printed incorrectly, according to reports. Fortunately, the kits were fixed in time for the Indians to take part in the opening ceremony.

Apathy towards Paralympics

India is not alone in this apathy towards the Paralympics. Despite Rio 2016 being the largest Paralympic Games ever, with as many as 4,350 athletes set to compete in 22 different sports across 11 days, the build-up was riddled with negative press. In fact, a huge shortfall in the budget and abysmal ticket sales, coupled with a struggling Brazilian economy, had threatened to disrupt the Games a month before they began. This was in spite of the Paralympics costing $2.1 billion, which is just a fifth of the $12.7 million price tag of the Rio Olympics.

The Brazilian government had to invest $80 million to bail out the Paralympics. However, this was not enough to avoid “cuts to the workforce and transport services as well as the closure of some media centres”.

A crowd-funding campaign and initiatives such as #FillTheSeats, which is working with the Paralympics organisers to buy 10,00 tickets for local children, caught the attention of Britain’s Prince Harry among others. All this led to 60% of the 2.5 million available tickets being sold, up from just 12% of the original target of 3 million in August. Fans in Rio can watch some of the events at the Paralympics for as little as 10 Brazilian Reals (approximately Rs 208). In comparison, a record 2.7 million tickets were sold during the London Paralympics.

And so, the Paralympics will go on, and probably even be a success. India may even win more medals than the two it won at the Olympics. And if that were to happen, how shameful would it be if no Indian would be able to watch it on TV.