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  • Writer's pictureClaire

Dubai 2/12/23

Early breakfast and we were in a taxi on our way to the Tournament having decided not to bother with a bus. Easy life is the best life.

We were dropped off on a roundabout, Mildred unloaded and Bob and I installed for the day. The entrance into the stadium is compacted sand, the way for the general public marked by substantial barriers. We were directed to cut across that which was fine as the sand was again compacted and provided a firm ground for Mildred... right up until we hit a drainage channel filled with gravel, at which point Mildred came to a sharp stop and lost her front wheels in the gravel. Si soon had us out of it and we continued onwards to the entry.

The entrance was all block paved and this continued throughout the whole site. Security were efficient, and all bags were scanned on the way in. We were supplied with wrist bands with the day on them and went on our merry way.

Once through security there is a huge sign, people height so we had some pics taken with that, including Bob. He's turning into quite the diva and I swear he pulled a duck pout the other day. That stops now, to quote Dai.

Given it was relatively early there weren't massive amounts of people around so we went to pitch 2 as that had women's rugby ongoing. Here we encountered our first hitch. The pitch was surrounded by banks on 3 sides and solid fencing that came to eye height. Ability to see the games easily? Zero. There are large screens televising the event, so I watched the games on there for the main part. Despite being early in the day, it was lovely and hot, but the stand where the rest of the gang were was in the full morning sun. Now I love being warm, but the rest needed some shade and also a break from looking into the sun. They relocated to sitting in the bank under the score board in the shade. We stayed where we were for a while before. Moving off to check out pitch 1 .

The Dubai sevens app states that the tournament is wheelchair accessible. To be fair the site itself is very wheeler friendly, it's flat and well laid out. It also has excellent toilet facilities, that were spotlessly clean every time we used them and well stocked with bog roll. Always handy that. The toilet also doubled as a baby changing area and, as such had a fold down changing station running water and bins that were frequently emptied.. They were also air conditioned. No one was rushing out of there I can tell you!!

Sadly, the pitches themselves, although they were easy to get to, were not set up for wheelers. Now I know we live in a world that is set up for able bodied individuals and I totally accept that. There are usually ways around most things and people are very helpful. However, when you think that rugby is a massively physical sport, and we are fully aware that a lot of injuries occur to players that force them into wheelchairs, it's unfortunate that an event the size of this one hasn't thought about the small things like that.

Pitch 1, has stands on all sides and on the right of the main walkway into it is a large stand with a ramp. That's fabulous!! Erm, not so fast Speedy. Not for us. We had the wrong wrist bands, it was for VIP only. Firstly that's bloody rude, do they not know just who I am?? Clearly not it would seem. The security guard pointed down to the other end of the stand stating it was down there. When we got there we weren't allowed in, we're not VIP, and we got sent to the next stand. Another security guard who had absolutely no idea what we were talking about sent us to the other end of that stand assuring us it was down there. This continued around the whole of the pitch until we gave up and concluded there was in fact no disabled viewing points. There was another lad in a wheelchair, who was having the same issues. He was with a gent who worked for Emirates and said gent was singularly unimpressed with the situation. So much so he demanded to speak with the head of security. Having had a quiet word with the organ grinder, he established that at the rear of the stands there was in fact a ramp for pushchairs and wheelchairs and took the lad up there, then came back to tell us. Excellent news!!

Feeling very optimistic we trundled off to the back to the stadium after being told by a VERY helpful Kiwi that the stadium we were headed for was the best option because it's mostly shaded.

Said feeling of optimism was soon deflated when getting to the parking area for wheelers and prams, I couldn't see anything of the pitch. The top of the safety railing was right on eye level. 🙄 Si sat next to me on the seats (wooden planks covered in plastic grass) and he couldn't see a thing either. More eye rolls. If these keep up I'm going to need a Dr to address the repetitive strain injury they will surely suffer.

We sampled some of the food from the stands and I was impressed that there were the usual chips and burgers , but also really tasty salads and wraps. For some light liquid refreshment we hit the HSBC hospitality tent. It's not often you get something back from the people you bank with, and we were allowed 2drinks each. The place was packed with rugby fans from the world over, and i was invited to pull my wheels with some hilarious South African ladies. They both lived in Dubai and their kids were competing in the tornament and getting on ok given the standard they were up against. The enviroment is a very safe one and the kids were roaming free and having a fantastic time whilst mummy was on the beer. We obviously put the world to rights over a mutual love of rugby and i suspect the world is now in a much better place now for that.

Bob is drunk.

The time in the hospitality was up and they were Kicking everyone out to clean up for the next session. we wandered around the site and saw a few people in fancy dress, which always makes me smile. we had everything from jelly fish, babies, inflatable animals with riders, to avatar and they were all having an absolute ball.

we left the site about 1900hrs and made our way to the exit, which was the same way we had come in. As we were, a double line of security were marching in. I mean really marching, they looked to be on a serious mission. I guess making sure that many people dont do stupid things needs a lot of men in hiViz! THere were free buses but we opted for a taxi. What we hadnt anticipated was a sharp incline on sand and stone. Mildred"s wheels were throwing a fit and she was behaving like a goddamn shopping trolley. Seeing our predicament, one of the very helpful security guards came and assisted Si and we carried on to the line for the taxi. Again, compacted sand and stone and a bit bumpy on the butt. The taxis were very efficient and ran like clockwork due to the number of people they had there directing the cars and the people. we didnt wait more than 2 minutes before being bundled into a car and heading home in cloud of dust. Its ok the windows were up, and the aircon on high. I definately wasn't feeling a sand bath at that time of night. The drive back to the hotel went really quickly, and Dubai looked really nice, all twinkly lights against the night sky.

We contemplated a drink in the bar, but decided bed was a better option. Along with a rather tasty hot chocolate from the snack bar downstairs in the hotel lobby, we let ourselves into our lovely cool air conditioned room and crashed out after a freshen up.

A bit disappopinted that the rugby was only viewable on a big screen, but a great day nevertheless.

much love .x

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