Qatar addresses IAAF World Championships criticism

Late start times and boycotts have been cited as reasons for low attendances at the ongoing IAAF World Championships in Doha.

Athletics’ showpiece event has been marred by embarrassingly small crowds since the championships got underway in the Qatari capital on Friday.

During the headline men’s 100m final on Saturday, the 40,000-seat Khalifa International Stadium was half full. Reports have suggested that as few as 1,000 people were in the stadium for Sunday’s competitions.

Crowds did pick up during yesterday’s (Monday’s) events but the poor attendances on previous days have left the IAAF and the local organising committee facing questions over the reasons for the low turnout.

In a statement reported by the Reuters news agency, the local organising committee said that while Friday and Saturday attendances were “solid”, they were “down on expectations” on Sunday.

“The challenge we face with a competition schedule that is geared to support global TV viewership is that some finals are not starting until the late evening,” the statement added. “This impacts on the number of spectators remaining until the end of the session.”

The organising committee is anticipating stronger crowds for middle-distance races and also pointed to the boycott on Qatar by neighbouring Gulf nations as a difficulty it has had to contend with.

The committee said: “Our vision was for a first world championships in the Middle East. An IAAF World Athletics Championships that would welcome the world and connect to new fans. Despite facing unique challenges as hosts, in terms of the political (boycott), that ambition remains.”

Meanwhile, more details have emerged over Qatar’s plans to use climate-controlled stadia during its staging of football’s FIFA World Cup in 2022.

The tournament will take place in November and December and although it will be a relatively cool time of the year in Qatar, temperatures are still expected to be high.

Saud Abdul-Ghani, a Qatar University mechanical engineering professor, designed the air-cooling technology that will be deployed at stadia during the World Cup. The technology will create a significant drop-off in temperature from outside of the stadium to on the pitch.

Reuters noted that a temperature test at Al Janoub Stadium saw the on-pitch temperature measured at 21 degrees Celsius, compared to 35 degrees outside the venue. The system works as nozzles blow out chilled air along the side of the pitch, with stands also kept cool through angular ducts fitted beneath the seats.

Following Qatar 2022, the 2026 World Cup will be co-hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico, and Abdul-Ghani said these countries will “surely” look at Qatar’s air-cooling technology amid expected high temperatures during the North American summer.

Image: Doha 2019