Canadian athletes celebrate their arrival at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Village with a selfie (Photo: Rio 2016/Alexandre Vidal)
The first athletes and coaches began moving into their accomodation at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Village on Wednesday morning (31 August), with delegations from Cuba, Canada, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and China among those to be welcomed.
First impressions from athletes were positive, with several noting the speed with which they were provided with their village passes at the entry point, and then moved into their rooms, using convenient shuttle services.
"It's the fastest I've ever seen," said David Eng, a Canadian wheelchair basketball player who is competing at his fourth Paralympic Games. "Everything has been smooth so far, very fast. We got here very quickly from our hotel. Everything seems very good and I'm looking forward to it."
Canadian athletes were among the first to arrive at the village (Photo: Rio 2016/Alexandre Vidal)
Staff at the village opened the doors to the world's best para-athletes at 9am. By the end of the day, it is expected that 2,500 people – plus a few guide dogs for visually impaired athletes – will be settling into their new homes.
In total, around 4,350 athletes from more than 160 countries will travel to Rio. Supporting these athletes will be about 3,000 team officials, many of whom will also be staying in the village, alongside referees, judges and other sports personnel.
The village is located in Barra da Tijuca in western Rio, near Barra Olympic Park.
Among the first athletes to arrive was Marcio Fernandes of Cape Verde, who will compete in the javelin competition. "This is my second Games, so I know what to expect – it all looks good, and we are just taking some time to check out the facilities and see where everything is," he said. "We arrived yesterday, and moved in today. The room is fine, it's good."
Italian athletes board a shuttle bus after checking in at the village (Photo: Rio 2016/Alexandre Vidal)
Venue operations management said the main task they were focused on was to guide the athletes through the accreditation process and get them to their rooms.
Dutch footballer Iljas Visker said he and the Netherlands 7-a-side team were happy to move in, after a short stay in a nearby hotel. "It's good to move in already, everything is fine, a good bed and shower, the villlage seems good, what we hoped for.
"We're looking forward to the Games and showing what we can do. We can do well. We will go for training later today. Our first game is against USA."
The large Chinese delegation, which features nearly 500 people including coaches and officials, is arriving in stages. "Everyone is happy with the accommodation and we are all looking forward to the Games. It's been a smooth process moving in," said Team China adminsistration assistant Ying Huang.
Sitting volleyball player Lu Hongqin was a star of the China team that won gold at London 2012. "We've been here (in Rio) a few days already and it's good to move in," she said. "The service has been good, we're happy, no problems.
"We were champions in 2012 and I hope we can do it again. There will be lots of television coverage back home, and I know many people are wishing us to succeed."
Much of the China team will stay in one building at the village, already decorated from top to bottom in national flags.
Meanwhile, the Scandanavian teams are sharing the same building and have hung a banner on the ground floor stating their unity. It reads "6N1T" (six nations, one team), above a design displaying the six flags of Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Faroe Islands.
Esa Miettinen, a table tennis payer from Finland was very relaxed and looking forward to the stay. "It looks good. Check-in was easy. We've been well looked after, everything has been fine, and what we expected. We'll find our rooms now, and then have a look around and take a rest."
Finnish athletes arrive at the village (Photo: Rio 2016/Alexandre Vidal)
In the days since the ending of the Olympic Games on 21 August, a series of changes have been made to the village to adapt the huge complex, which comprises 31 buildings and 3,604 apartments, to the needs of the Paralympians.
Although all the buildings in the village were designed to high standards of accessibility, to provide more space for wheelchair users beds have been taken out of some of the double rooms, and chairs have been removed from the giant canteen.
Brazilian sailor Marinalva de Almeida poses with volunteers (Photo: Rio 2016/Alexandre Vidal)
All the buildings have units adapted for people with an impairment or with reduced mobility. The doors are wider, showers taller and corridors larger, and the lifts have room for two wheelchairs at a time.
During the transition period since the Olympic Games, healthcare company Ottobock, the official prosthetic and orthotic service provider for the Paralympic Games, has installed a specialist repair centre in the village.
In total, more than 9,000 people, including 2,000 volunteers, will be working at the village for the duration of the Paralympic Games.