In race to stage the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2017, London’s cool climate is a huge advantage
Qatar was the controversial choice of FIFA to stage football’s 2022 World Cup. Let’s hope the IAAF does not make the same mistake on November 11 when it decides who will host the 2017 World Athletics Championships.
The Qatari capital of Doha is going head to head with London for the right to stage the event. Being British, I am naturally going to support London’s bid. But even neutrals must surely realise that to award the championships to Doha would be madness.
The Doha bid team says its hot climate won’t be a problem. Yeah, right. I have been to some pretty hot events over the years, such as the 1999 IAAF World Championships in Seville – a city nicknamed the ‘frying pan of Europe’ – but nowhere was as warm as the IAAF Grand Prix Final in Doha shortly after the Sydney Olympic Games.
It was October 2000 and I remember stepping out of my air-conditioned hotel on to the Corniche (which is part of the planned 2017 marathon route) and being overwhelmed by temperatures of 40C plus. Granted, it cooled down a lot at night. But daytime was genuinely unbearable.
Even holding the Grand Prix Final in the desert peninsula oil state was, at the time, a dubious decision. The Times reported: “Never a year passes without the IAAF taking one of its world series events to a venue which attracts two men and a dog or, in this case, two sheikhs and a camel.”
Add to this Qatar’s chequered human rights record, treatment of women and homophobia, plus the Mohammed bin Hammam bribery scandal surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup bid, and the IAAF would, at best, be taking a huge gamble if it picked Doha over London.
Even worse, Qatar is clearly bidding for the IAAF event as part of a bigger plan to stage the Olympic Games. Can you imagine that? Beads of sweat roll off the brow just thinking about it. As one IAAF member recently told me: “Having an air-conditioned stadium for the athletics is one thing, but what about the other Olympic sports? Are they going to control the climate over the whole country!?”
Most of all, this 2017 bid decision will surely boil down to the weather. The cool and damp British climate is usually nothing to sing about, but on this occasion it is London’s trump card.
» Athletics Weekly will be bringing out a 2017 bid special issue on November 3.