The British Paralympic Association signed an agreement with the City of Belo Horizonte to allow the ParalympicsGB team to train and prepare in the city in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Games.
The agreement was made in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Harry who earlier took part in rugby, basketball and judo activities with local children and Ben Quilter, ParalympicsGB’s Judo Bronze Medallist at London 2012, at the Minas Tênis Clube in Belo Horizonte.
“It was great to meet the Prince, I don’t think he has done Judo in the past but he is as you would imagine, a down to earth guy and very charismatic,” said Ben.
“I am here as the BPA representative and it has been an incredible experience.
“I think I will be seeing him again tomorrow in Saul Paulo at a birthday party that we are attending for the Queen.”
The Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais [UFMG], the state’s top university, and Minas Tênis Clube, a state-of-the-art multi sports club, will be the main pre-games training centres for the athletes ahead of the Games.
The BPA’s preparation camp will be supported by UK Sport with National Lottery funding.
The event ran in conjunction with the build up to England’s FIFA World Cup match against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte later in the day.
The MoU, which is seen as an opportunity to strengthen both sporting and wider social understanding of disability in Minas Gerais and Belo Horizonte, comes on the back of the announcement from the British Olympic Association last year that Team GB will also be based in the city ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Only a one hour flight from Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia, Belo Horizonte is one of the best connected cities in Brazil and the optimal year round temperatures and first class facilities make it an ideal location for sports training and preparation. Belo Horizonte is also currently hosting the national teams from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Speaking at the event, HRH Prince Harry said:
“I am delighted that the BPA has formed such a close partnership with the city of Belo Horizonte. London 2012 was a fantastic success and the Paralympic Games has moved on to a new level of excellence and excitement. The BPA is keen to build on this incredible legacy and I have no doubt that, through the partnerships announced today, the ParalympicsGB team will be best prepared for Rio 2016.”
Tim Hollingsworth, BPA CEO, added: “We are delighted to be in Belo Horizonte to sign these agreements that will see ParalympicsGB train and prepare here in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“We believe that we have found some fantastic facilities for our needs and I would like to thank all our new partners here in Belo Horizonte for working so hard to accommodate our requirements.”
The Mayor of Belo Horizonte, Marcio Lacerda, said: “We are truly honoured that the British Paralympic Association have chosen Belo Horizonte as a pre Games training base ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“This is yet another great moment for our city and we will ensure that every member of ParalympicsGB and Team GB are welcomed with passion and respect ensuring that they are provided with the best facilities to help them prepare for Rio 2016.”
And finally Professor Jaime Arturo Ramirez, on behalf of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, said
“The Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais is honoured to receive ParalympicsGB and Team GB in our facilities. We can provide technical and scientific support to contribute to the teams’ success, during the entire preparation period ahead of Rio 2016.”
Words by Donna Richardson