Daniel Etchells

Competition is still ongoing at the 2017 World Para Athletic Championships here in London, but talk over where the next edition of the biennial event will be held and whether it could even return to England’s capital in two years’ time has already begun.

London 2017 co-chairman Ed Warner is reportedly looking to hold discussions with City Hall, UK Sport, the Government and other interested parties and stakeholders about the potential for the World Championships to return to the same city in 2019.

Some athletes have even go so far to suggest that London should become the permanent home of World Para Athletics’ flagship meet.

But is it really a good idea?

There are certainly arguments to support it.

While the 56,000-capacity Olympic Stadium may have looked sparse at times, this year’s World Championships will go down as the best attended outside of a Paralympic Games.

As of the latest update, ticket sales stood at 280,000, which is more than the amount sold for all eight of the previous championships combined.

To put it into perspective, just 15,000 tickets were sold for the 2015 edition in Qatar’s capital Doha.

Add to that the exceptional facilities and world-class venue, it is little wonder that so many athletes, including the likes of the world’s fastest Paralympian Jason Smyth of Ireland and British wheelchair racing star Hannah Cockroft, are keen to come back here time and time again. 

The World Para Athletics Championships could be returning to London in 2019 ©Getty Images
The World Para Athletics Championships could be returning to London in 2019 ©Getty Images

On the flip side, having London as a mainstay location for the World Championships would go against the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) aim to spread Para-athletics across the globe.

Indeed, the body’s President, Sir Philip Craven, told the London Evening Standard that "it’s more important than ever that we take this all over the world".

The Briton did concede, however, that London 2019 is a possibility, adding "we’d obviously love to come back".

Canadian wheelchair racer Brent Lakatos, who last night added the men’s 800 metres T53 title to the 200m and 400m crowns he won earlier in the event, is among the athletes who have given their backing to all future World Championships being held in London.

The 37-year-old, a triple silver medallist when the Paralympics were held in London in 2012, tweeted a message earlier this week which read: "The UK is the birthplace of the Paralympics.

"The London 2017 Worlds are the best ever.

"Let’s make London the permanent home of the Para World Championships."

Speaking about this year’s event, he told insidethegames: "Everything here has been unbelievable.

"I’d definitely say it’s the best organised World Championships there has been.

"It’s on the level of an Olympics and Paralympics, so the Organising Committee has done amazingly well.

"To compete on that track again, in that atmosphere, in the city - it’s just really, really good to be back here."

Lakatos has competed at five editions of the World Championships and disagrees with the argument that moving the event around the world will be more beneficial for the development of the sport.

"I actually think that that’s wrong," he told insidethegames.

Canada's Brent Lakatos believes London should be the permanent home of the World Para Athletics Championships ©Getty Images
Canada's Brent Lakatos believes London should be the permanent home of the World Para Athletics Championships ©Getty Images

"I think if you look at the previous Games, they’ve been in Assen (2006), they’ve been in Christchurch (2011), they’ve been in France (Lyon 2013), they’ve been in Qatar in Doha, and we’ve been competing in front of empty stadiums.

"Just look at the videos from Doha. I’d be surprised if there were 25 locals who showed up for the competition at a given session.

"There were some people with us but they were the athletes, staff members and maybe some family and friends who made the trip.

"If I’m a young kid and I’m watching it on TV or I’m watching it on YouTube and I’m in just some random country around the world, and I’m watching these athletes go fast, or jump far, or whatever it is, I’ll think 'that’s cool I want to do that some day'. But then if you see an empty stadium, you’re like well 'nobody really cares about it do they?'

"If you look at London and you see a stadium of 50,000 people that’s near capacity on the weekends and still really well supported on a Thursday night, when I was there last night, you’ll be like 'I want to go fast like those guys, I want to go to London and compete in that atmosphere'.

"I think it’s going to get more kids involved than having athletes compete in front of nobody with no atmosphere.

"You win a race and there’s no cheering. What good does that do?"

Lakatos believes there are other more effective ways and means of developing Para-athletics, including reducing participation fees.

The fee for an individual athlete to compete at these World Championships was around £770 ($1,000/€860), something which Uganda Paralympic Committee (UPC) President Mpindi Bumali was particularly critical of when speaking to insidethegames on Sunday (July 16).

Lakatos described the entry fees for the participants as "one of the problems" with the event.

"There are over 1,100 athletes and there’s a large number of staff also so it’s probably close to 2,000 people participating in this event," he said.

"It’s on the order of about $1,000 (£770/€860) for every single person and that money does not got to London 2017, it goes directly to the IPC, so that’s about $2 million (£1.5 million/€1.7 million)."

IPC President Sir Philip Craven has ruled out the prospect of London ever becoming a permanent host of the event ©Getty Images
IPC President Sir Philip Craven has ruled out the prospect of London ever becoming a permanent host of the event ©Getty Images

Lakatos added: "I’d love to see that number lowered because what that number is doing for each person is preventing countries from sending athletes, young athletes, to gain experience.

"If they’d be able to send more people, it wouldn’t just be 1,100 people, it might be 2,000 athletes here or something.

"That also would continue to grow athletics and the Paralympic Movement if more people are able to be involved and not be prevented financially."

It is likely to become clearer over the coming weeks whether London 2019 could indeed become a reality. But wherever future World Championships are held, they must be in locations that best serve to develop Para-athletics.

Some, such as Sir Philip, argue that that will be best achieved by taking the event around the world, while others, such as Lakatos, feel the IPC are fighting a losing battle and need to stick with what they know will produce a successful outcome.

London 2012 will forever be remembered as a watershed moment for Paralympic sport and it is up to the IPC to ensure that legacy continues to be built upon.