490 athletes for Fazza International Athletics - IPC Grand Prix Dubai

IPC Athletics Ryan Montgomery, Thani Juma Berregad, Chairman of the Dubai Club for the Disabled and Majid Abdullah Al Usaimi, Executive Director at the Dubai Club for the Disabled, with other officials at a press conference to announce details of Fazza International Athletics - IPC Grand Prix Dubai on Tuesday. (Supplied)

A record number of 490 athletes from 48 countries have confirmed their participation in the seventh edition of the Fazza International Athletics Championships which will be held in Dubai, UAE this month.

The 2015 edition will be an IPC Athletics Grand Prix competition with Dubai hosting only the third IPC Athletics Grand Prix after the inaugural edition was also held in the UAE last year.

The Fazza International Athletics - IPC Grand Prix Dubai is organised jointly by the Dubai Club for the Disabled and the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center, under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council.

The Fazza International Athletics - IPC Grand Prix Dubai which will be held from February 19-26 at the Dubai Police Officers Club in Jadaf, Dubai, will serve as a qualification event for the IPC World Cup which will be held in Doha, Qatar this year and the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.

Thani Juma Berregad, Chairman of the Dubai Club for the Disabled and Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Fazza International Athletics IPC Grand Prix in Dubai, expressed his deep appreciation and gratitude on behalf of the Organising Committee to Sheikh Hamdan for his unstinted support for the development of Paralympic sports in the UAE.

He also extended his thanks to the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center for its efforts in organising the Fazza International Athletics IPC Grand Prix and the Dubai Sports Council for their support.

"Under the directives of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Fazza has become a destination for athletes all around the world. The Fazza International Athletics meeting is one of the most popular competitions all over the world because of the high level of organisation and high performance of athletes," said Juma Berregad at a press conference at the Dubai Club for the Disabled on Tuesday.

"It is a recognition of the excellent organisation that IPC Athletics has chosen the United Arab Emirates as a venue for the third edition of the IPC Athletics Grand Prix competition after the 2014 event. Dubai is one of the seven cities to stage the IPC Grand Prix," added Juma Berregad.

"It is undoubtedly one of the biggest championship having grown from 13 countries in 2009 to 48 with over 460 athletes competing. We want to showcase Dubai not only for tourism but as a sporting destination as well. Since 2009 there has been a remarkable increase in the number of participants and the standard of competition due to the fact that the best athletes in the world take part in this event," Juma Berregad said.

Al Bannai of Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center said: "We are proud to support this international championships. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, has given directives to provide all requirements to this category of athletes who are key members of the society."

Majid Abdullah Al Usaimi, Executive Director at the Dubai Club for the Disabled, said UAE hoped to capitalise on the success they achieved at the London Olympics in 2012.

"We are grateful to Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, for giving tremendous support to athletes and providing the best environment to achieve high standards. We are also working with IPC Athletics to improve standards. This IPC Grand Prix will be a stepping stone to test their skills and hope they will benefit," said Al Usaimi.

UAE will be represented by 150 athletes from various clubs around the country. "We have discovered new athletes and they are ready to bring glory to UAE," said Ahmed Hassan.

Following four days of classification in Al Ain and Sharjah, athletes will participate in four days of top class track and field from February 22-25.

The competition will be held in the morning and evening on February 23 and 24 commencing at 9am and 3pm while events are scheduled for 3pm start on February 22 and 25.

The official opening ceremony will be held on Saturday February 21 at Mamzar commencing at 8pm.

"We will showcase the heritage of the country during the opening ceremony. There will be prizes and surprises galore for all those attending," said Al Usaimi.

Athletes will compete in distances from 100m, 200m, 400, 800m, 1500m and 5,000m on the track, and field events of shot put, discus, javelin, club throw and long jump.

The track and field events will be held in accordance with the rules and regulations of IPC Athletics.

The previous edition of the competition, the first event of the IPC Athletics Grand Prix 2014, was held at the Sharjah Club.

As part of IPC Athletics' strategy to provide more high level competition opportunities for para-athletes around the world, Dubai will host the first ever IPC Athletics Asia-Oceania Championships between March 3 and 8, 2016.

It is expected to attract around 600 athletes from 45 countries.

"It is a sentiment to the delivery of the event and the quality of the event that the IPC Grand Prix has attracted a record number of entries. It also affirms the continued investment the Dubai Club for the Disabled has in the development of our sport by agreeing to host the IPC Athletics Asia-Oceania Championships in March in addition to this event," said Ryan Montgomery, Chairman of IPC Athletics.

He lauded Dubai Club for the Disabled for their endeavour to make this sport popular.

"The approach has not only been to develop IPC athletics not only within the UAE but within the greater region. I think that's hugely important," added Montgomery.

The IPC Athletics chief underlined the importance of competitions this year because of the Rio Paralympics.

"We have the World Championships at the end of the year. Teams are qualifying for the Rio Paralympics now. I cannot emphasize the importance of this year in making sure athletes get to the Rio Paralympics," he said.

"We don’t know the final programme for Rio but every event is hugely important. Every single athlete, every single IPC, every single team without exception is strong. You can see that from the big jump in the number of countries that are there this year," he added.

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