Abu Dhabi: England's Daley Thompson, one of the world's greatest decathletes, has called for athletics to be made simpler to get kids attracted to a sport that has seen its popularity waning in recent years.

"I think in the last ten years, athletics has been losing its popularity a bit. So the sport has to work at it," said the man who won the decathlon gold medals in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.

Thompson, who broke the world record four times, told Gulf News in an exclusive chat, "They should try and make it simpler for kids. Like a normal athletic meeting in the UK takes four, five and even six hours from start to finish. They have to give kids a meet of just one or two hours."

"Children do not have that much time any more. You have to do whatever you can to get the kids interested and then if the kids like it they will come," said the decathlon champion who is an ambassador for the London 2012 Olympics. During the bid stage focused on highlighting the benefits that hosting the Olympics would bring to education and sport in schools.

"For too many years they [Athletic federations] just relied on people coming in and just the stars doing it for them rather then promoting and doing all the publicity themselves. And I just think with the likes of Usain Bolt it is possible to move up again. But the authorities have to work at it," said Thompson, who after retiring from the professional football with Mansfield Town and Stevenage Borough FC, worked as a fitness coach for Wimbledon FC and Luton Town.

"In the context of the obesity problem in all developed countries like the UK, it is the most important thing to promote athletics. The great thing about athletics is that no matter what kind of size or shape you are there is an athletic event for everyone, an event you can do," he said.

"And I just think that because it is so simple and it does not cost that much, you hardly need any equipment...Athletics should be pursued just be a little fitter," Thompson said.