Can Doha Change Attitudes?
When Doha is mentioned in the news it may be more about the World Cup that is going to be hosted in 2022 rather the IPC World Athletics Championships that are taking place there at the moment.
This is the first time that a global Athletics event for disabled athletes are been hosted in the region and there are 1300 taking part. China have brought an impressive 79 athletes and with only a couple of days left to go they have won more gold medals that the next two countries on the league table. The change that we have seen in the number and depth of chinese athletes coming through has been impressive. Back in the 2004 Games they had a small team, but did well. Now they have increasing numbers (and not just in Athletics) and it is going to be hard to see how any country will be able to come close to them in Rio next year.
The reason for picking Doha to host the games is not because of the public support for disability sport; they have yet to build that base. And indeed, there has been limited support apart from team and friends and family. It turns out that locals rarely come out to watch although the events are apparently cheap to attend, but it is easy to understand when the morning temperatures are touching 40 degrees. When it drops to the high twenties at about 10 O'clock at night you start thinking about whether you should put a jacket on, which all seems a little strange.
The event here is more about raising the profile of events in the region and about attitudes to disability. To be honest it is hard to see how many disabled people are around because it is hard to judge how many people are around. The lack of a public transport system (there are some buses and they are building an underground) but the heat means that you don't see people walking anywhere.
At these championships there has been a concerted effort to have more women competing and there are 39% more than the last World Championships in Lyon in 2013. The reality is that life for disabled people and then disabled women is really tough in a number of countries around the world and if there are an equitable number of events on the programme it may indeed encourage social programmes around the world for disabled people.
So if this event is going to be used to promote inclusion of disabled people then it will be interesting to see how the teams from this region grow in the next twelve months and how many women are able to compete.