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Are We Welcome? A Look at the 2018 Davis Cup Final

About the Event

Through Nov. 24, Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France is hosting the annual Davis Cup Final. The Davis Cup was founded in 1900 as the International Lawn Tennis Challenge, but after one competitor, Dwight Davis, paid for the championship trophy with his own money the event was henceforth known as the Davis Cup. While it was initially a transatlantic competition between the USA vs the UK tennis the 2018 cup hosted participants from over 130 nations. The Davis Cup is a tournament style championship featuring four rounds, and the two teams competing in this year’s final are France and Croatia.

Neither France nor Croatia have plus size athletes participating in the cup. In fact, both teams are predominately white (more on that later). One notable player is France’s Richard Gasquet. Gasquet is the top French player, but unfortunately he has been forced to withdraw from the final due an undisclosed injury. Gasket says he is extremely disappointed, but is of course wishing his team the best.

As of 2017, the team with the most titles is the USA with 32 victories. The Davis Cup Honour Roll ranks Australia in second place with 28 titles, and third place is a tie between Great Britain and France with 10 wins each. The ranking system seems pretty freaking complicated, but at publication France is in the lead with 34637.5 points, and Croatia is behind with 20132.5 points.

Accessibility

The final will be held at Stade Pierre Mauroy, which was constructed in 2012 with a price tag of approximately €300 million. The stadium has five different seating configurations with a maximum capacity of 50,000 seats. The seating plan includes 5,233 business seats (10.4%), 7,300 VIP seats (14.6%), and 500 wheelchair accessible seats (1%). Unlike the Aspire Dome we discussed last month, this venue actually has accessibility information! I realise we’re applauding the bare minimum here, but again, l o a d s  better than the Aspire Dome.

The accessibility page explains where seats for wheelchair users are located, ticketing, parking, and more. However, there is no information regarding accommodation for attendees with hearing or visual impairments. There is no information available on seat dimensions, and when I reached out via the venue contact page I received no reply.

A Google image search for “Stade Pierre Mauroy seating” reveals that seats are traditional folding stadium seats, and unfortunately they seem to have those pesky armrests (that don’t appear to flip up out of the user’s way). At best, they will dig in and possibly bruise smaller fats, and at worst they will render the event inaccessible for larger fats. With the various seating tiers (i.e. standard, business, and VIP) I can only assume that each seat will include larger seats as well as a greater amount of leg room.

The accessibility issues discussed up to this point are all physical barriers to access, but there are additional barriers that can prevent people from attending events either as a participant or as a spectator. Psychological barriers to access are any non-physical barriers, such as society’s attitude toward marginalised people, event marketing, or any other factors that might dissuade marginalised people from attending.

Tennis has very well documented issues with racism and classism. At this particular event, all but one of the French and Croatian participants are white or white passing. With required clothing, equipment, lessons, club memberships, etc., it’s also very expensive to get into tennis on a recreational level, let alone on a professional level. Players who are non-white and/or come from economic hardship are far less likely to see themselves represented, and therefore may be discouraged to participate.

Recommendations

For fat spectators, my greatest recommendation is to splash out on VIP tickets if possible. Aside from some tall, wobbly looking barstools, all VIP seating consists mostly of couches that look completely fat friendly. The VIP areas are also accessible for manual or power chair users. In my opinion, the amount of comfort gained from the private, climate controlled, private seating would be well worth you money.

As always, if you attend be sure to leave a review on AllGo – The Plus Size Review App. The more reviews posted on AllGo, the more information fat babes will have when planning potential trips to future events.

For event professionals, further information would be helpful regarding accessibility. While thorough information is provided for wheelchair users, there is no information whatsoever available for attendees with visual impairment or with hearing impairment.

The best practice would be for event professionals to provide as much accommodation as possible for those with disability related requirements (such as sign language interpretation and audio induction loop), in addition to accommodating wheelchair users.