On the year anniversary since the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, we reflected on what was an amazing tournament by speaking to one of the integral people in ensuring the event ran smoothly, Rui Marques.

Born in São Paulo, Rui Marques has dedicated more than 20 years of his career to wheelchair basketball as a coach, referee and manager. He has represented Brazil at major tournaments – including the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Rui was the Sport Manager for wheelchair basketball during Rio 2016, and he looks back on his time at the Paralympics Games in Rio as an exciting but also stressful time. The main tasks for him as sport manager were to thoughtfully plan and bring all the pieces together such as budgets, personnel (hired staff and volunteers), schedules and timetables, to ensure the competition ran effectively.

There were two different phases involved in the role. The first phase prior to the competition where there is the development of the event plans, not only sport related but also all the supporting areas surrounding such a competition including transportation, catering, housing, broadcasting, venue dressing, personnel hiring and training, documentation development and production and registration. The second phase is when the event itself is taking place, and the wheelchair basketball team developed a DCAS (detailed competition activity schedule) that guided their day. This DCAS was a spreadsheet that exceeded 300 lines daily.

“That means that we had at least 300 moments a day that an action had to be triggered and coordinated.” explains Rui Marques.

Although he really enjoyed his role, he had to admit that it was more stressful than he expected, saying,

“In an event like this you combine all types of stress at once. You get physically and emotionally tired. There were many eighteen to twenty hour working days leading up to and during the event, ensuring that we met all the stakeholders expectations and delivered all that was planned on time.”

He continued, “Bringing together this puzzle of many different pieces delivered by numerous different people of different natures and cultures, enabling everyone to communicate in similar ways and be able to understand each other and deliver what was needed, wasn’t always easy.’

There were many challenges for Rui, but he mastered them all and he also benefitted from his twenty years of experience in the sport, during which he had learnt a lot in his different roles that offered him the chance to get different perspectives.

Overseeing both wheelchair basketball venues and managing the competition, did not leave Rui much time to experience much of the Games, but what he did have was a really good team, built of many old colleagues and friends as well as new faces, who became friends, which made it an extremely fun experience.

“Seeing the happiness on athlete’s faces during the Games or having friends come to watch games and reach out was great, but what made the Games for me was the number of volunteers that we had and the seriousness of which they delivered the Games. Brazil is a country that does not have a volunteering tradition unlike many other countries, however the wheelchair basketball community (not only from Brazil), embraced these Games and helped deliver a marvelous Paralympics.”

What also made the Games so special were the Brazilian people themselves, Rui explained,

“The way people were treated while delivering their duties is what gave these Games its uniqueness. Making the people that attended the games, independent of their role, feel welcome and at home, made many of them forget and overcome any problems that they might have faced.”

There was one special moment at the Games he will never forget. It was whilst preparing the venue for the Men´s final and medal ceremony, Rui stood beside one of the stands and saw his family, along with a full venue.

He said, “We had more people in that venue over ten days of the Paralympics than the Olympics did in sixteen. That was the moment that I realised this. Seeing the venue full, with the crowd cheering at that moment made all the dedication of the four year endeavour worth it. This moment crowned Brazil men’s team beating Australia, on the last shot of the fifth -sixth place game in the previous session of the day, to reach their best Paralympic finish ever.”

One thing is for sure, Rui is absolutely thankful for his Paralympic experience as Sport Manager. Looking to the future he thinks there is still potential to improve the sport of wheelchair basketball, despite it being one of the largest Paralympic sports in the world, not many people can make a living from it.

“The more the sport grows, the more professionalised it can become.”

He sees a bright future for the sport and his wish is to keep being a part of the wheelchair basketball family and keep helping the sport to grow.

Short Background Info on Rui Marques.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Sports from Universidade de São Paulo, an MBA in Sports Management and an executive masters degree in Sports Organization Management.

Rui worked as technical and competitions coordinator at the Brazilian Wheelchair Basketball Federation (2005-2010), as Program Coordinator at Wheelchair Basketball Canada (2010-2011) and as a Sports Manager at the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (2011-2012) before joining Rio 2016 as Wheelchair Basketball Manager