Athletics Championships in Qatar a mistake?
Peak performances in the burning heat, empty, joyless stadiums: many athletes are criticising the decision to have Doha host the World Athletics Championships. The IAAF, meanwhile, defends its strategy for globalising sport. Europe's commentators join in the criticism and have scarcely a good word to say about the event.
A sad career pinnacle for athletes
The athletes are the main victims of the decision to award the event to Qatar, The Guardian complains:
“These world athletics championships have been a PR disaster for athletics, the sport's president Sebastian Coe, and for Qatar, a country which has spent the past decade buying up rights to host major events, including the 2022 football World Cup. ... However Coe continues to maintain that track and field must venture into new territories to help spread the word. Tell that to the 1,972 athletes from 208 countries here in Doha. For many this will be the pinnacle of their careers. How sad, then, that it risks turning into a nadir for their sport.”
This does not augur well for the World Cup
Physical exertion is part and parcel of the competition, but in Qatar things are being taken a little too far, Corriere del Ticino rails:
“Instead of beating records, in Doha you have to fight just to reach the home stretch alive, which is an achievement in itself. ... From what we've seen so far in Doha, where the latest generation of giant air conditioners has been installed in the stadiums in an attempt to keep the temperature down (and cool frayed tempers), the concerns can only be about 2022: For some commentators the flop of the World Athletics Championships is already just a harbinger of things to come at the even more important and popular football World Cup, which is also being held in Qatar.”
All about the TV images
The sports officials couldn't care less if no one turns up to watch the competitions, three-time Olympic javelin gold medallist Jan Železný tells Denik:
“From a commercial point of view it's not the viewers at the stadiums who are important, but those in front of their TVs. The decisive factor for viewer ratings is the way an event like this is presented. That depends on the performances of the athletes and the commentators. When I was on the Olympic Committee everyone was saying that big stadiums are superfluous and that what really counts is the viewing figures because they generate the profits in the form of money for the sponsors.”
A sport crime
Lapin Kansa is also appalled:
“The exceptionally critical human rights situation in the country was already known when the decision on the venue was made in the back rooms of the IAAF. ... Not a single state or athlete boycotted the world championships even though the country hosting the event makes no bones about trampling on human rights and has done nothing to change this. ... Awarding the competitions to Qatar, which is ruled by a family, is a sport crime the shamelessness of which surpasses even holding the football World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Olympic Games in China.”