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Para sport could take ‘step back’ in ’empty stadiums’ in Dubai – world champion Davies

Para sport could take ‘step back’ in ’empty stadiums’ in Dubai – world champion Davies
Aled Sion Davies celebrated double gold at the 2017 World Para-athletics Championships in London

Aled Sion Davies says a decision to hold next year’s World Athletics Championships in Dubai could prove “a step back” for para sport.

The three-time double world champion fears lessons have not been learned from empty stadiums at the 2015 championships in Doha, Qatar.

He recalls it being “depressing” and “sad” when he won his gold medal there.

Davies is also critical of the championships being held later in the year, in November.

The double paralympic gold medallist says the British public and the world embraced para sport at London 2012, but there was “nobody there” in Doha three years later.

“Walking out into an empty stadium was kind of depressing, because you think this is supposed to be one of the biggest stages, and I think our fear as athletes looking at Dubai is that we’re going to have the same thing again.

“I’ve been out to Dubai as part of the IPC Grand Prix in 2015 and it’s in the same stadium (next year) and there was nobody there, there was no interest.”

Davies says something “sparked up again” when the World Championships returned to London in 2017.

“The night when I won my shot put there were 40,000 people there and it was lovely to have,” he said.

Davies wants to compete in an able-bodied major final at the 2022 Commonwealth Games

Dubai will host the 2019 World Para-athletics Championships from 7-15 November, in what will be the first time the event has taken place in the United Arab Emirates.

But Davies questions the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) decision to stage the games there after the event in Doha was criticised for poor attendance.

“The IPC would have seen Doha… how de-motivating and how much of a step backwards that World Championships was for the athletes,” he said.

“London again kind of picked the Paralympic sport back up off the floor and I just hope Dubai is not going to knock it down.”

More than 230,000 people attended the London 2017 championships – more than in all seven of the previous championships combined.

“I would like to see a championships where it is embraced by the country,” added Davies.

“If you can’t sell the tickets for these championships then invite people along for free. That’s what we did here in Britain and in the end there’s a demand for it now. I just wish the other countries would just learn from what we’ve done, adopt those techniques and see the sport flourish.”

Davies won gold at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic games

As well as the location, Davies has concerns about the timing of the Dubai championships.

He says it was “really annoying” they were being held so late in the year and warned it could lead to the sport’s “big stars” giving them a miss it to focus on Tokyo 2020.

“November for a World Champs is always going to be tough,” he said.

“I know a lot of athletes will be thinking ‘this is going to hinder my preparations for Tokyo’. We saw Jonny Peacock do it in 2015… he gave Doha a miss because he didn’t want to affect his preparations going into Rio 2016.

“This is a month later again and it was hard enough to try and peak for October, now we’re going to have to peak for November. I just don’t understand the decision.”

Davies said he will go to Dubai to defend his two world titles in the shot put and discus.

“Personally I will be doing it because I’m not one to give up a title I own.”

Davies added he hopes to be proved wrong and that Dubai will be a success.

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