As a result of events and exhibitions being cancelled due to Covid-19, our offices are temporarily closed. However we are monitoring telephone messages and enquiry emails so please do stay in touch. We are looking forward to resuming our work when events restart after the summer.

What can event planners learn from the Rio Paralympics?

8 Sep 2016 Events

This week, the 2016 Summer Paralympics kicked off in Rio. While we hope the Games will be a resounding success for Team GB, the run-up to the event has not been without controversy.

With a leading figure in the Paralympic movement now calling for an inquiry into “unacceptable Rio failures”, just what went wrong? And, what lessons can event planners take from this failure?

Failure to consider the bigger picture

Earlier this year the Paralympics were downsized due to disappointing ticket sales. While sales have now reached 1.6 million, a frantic last-minute “fill the seats” campaign was launched with only 12% of all available seats sold in August.

Poor ticket sales don’t reflect a general lack of interest in the Paralympics. In fact, London 2012 drew record crowds and unprecedented levels of media coverage. However, with Brazil grappling with a recession and allegations of governmental corruption, the decision to host the Olympics and Paralympics was a highly controversial one. So, it’s no wonder that ticket sales were disappointing.

Lesson: Events don’t happen in isolation. To be a successful event professional you must have an awareness of the wider social, economic, and political factors that could impact your event. Likewise, choosing the right location is fundamental to the success of your event, and getting it wrong can be a disaster.

A lack of funding

In the run-up to the Games, it was revealed that the organisers had failed to pay travel grants of up to $8m. Likewise, hundreds of Paralympic employees had their contracts terminated due to the Rio committee’s inability to pay their wages. While some public money was made available to help plug the gap, it wasn’t enough. To make matters worse, rather than come clean about the lack of funds, the event organisers (reportedly) tried to hide it.

Lesson: Budgeting is an essential part of the event planning process. Just as importantly, don’t use smoke and mirrors to try and hide serious problems. The sooner you face up to any issues when planning an event, the earlier these issues can be addressed and resolved.

A failure to plan

There seems to have been an element of “it-will-be-all right-on-the-night” to the Rio committee's event management strategy. As a result, in addition to ticket sales, there are also concerns over essentials such as food and transport at the Games.

Lesson: For an event of any size, a failure to plan will cause problems. The ‘forget about it now, think about it later’ mentality just won’t cut it in the precise world of event planning. And this planning doesn’t stop once your event is over. Instead, it’s important to learn from your successes and failures, and bring these lessons into any future event strategy.

Over-promising and under-delivering

Due to a lack of funding, the host city scrapped plans to pay for an expansion of its Paralympics TV coverage. This means that nearly half the sports at the Games will not be covered live on television. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of broken promises in Rio.

Lesson: Overpromising may make you look good at the start, but you’re unlikely to win hearts and minds if you break your assurances. By being honest and saying “no” when something is impossible (and suggesting an alternative if there is one), you’ll be less likely to let people down, and gain their trust in the process.

Not understanding your audience

While Brazil does have a credible Paralympic heritage (winning 43 medals in London), there does seem to be a lack of understanding about just what it means to be a Paralympian. A point that was highlighted on the cover of Brazilian Vogue, with photos of able-bodied actors digitally altered to look like Paralympians.

Lesson: To understand what an event needs, event planners first have to know what they want to say, and who they are talking to. The more you know, the more targeted you can be with your communications, and, the more successful your event is likely to be. Apply some strategy to shape your agenda and find the right messages to influence your audience. This will help you to deliver those all-important communications in a way that informs, impresses, entertains, and motivates – not infuriates.

At Apex, we understand the immense effort that goes into preparing for events, and we work with you to help reach your goals and achieve a truly positive experience. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help boost attendance and make your events a success, contact us today to find out more, or give us a call today on + 44 (0)1625 429370 to discuss your requirements in more depth.






Apex has over 30 years of experience in events and exhibitions and a philosophy based on exceptional service, expertise, and innovative solutions. To find out more about how the Apex team can help you, contact us today.