British capital beats Doha in the race to stage the 2017 edition of the global athletics event as the IAAF World Championships will be held on UK soil for the first time
It was one of the most hotly-contested races to stage the World Championships that the IAAF has ever seen, but after a two-month long process from both bids that involved tireless campaigning, host-venue visits, and last-minute talks with key figures in hotel lobbies, it was announced today that London will host the 2017 IAAF World Championships.
They beat rivals Doha in the voting that took place today in Monaco. It had been a close-run race all along, so much so that there were suggestions last week that the IAAF may consider awarding the 2019 edition of the championships to the runner-up city. But neither host city would have been in a position to realistically stage the 2019 event; all of their efforts were concentrated on 2017.
Two days ago Universal Sports reported that London were in pole position, based on the perceived voting intentions of the 27-strong IAAF council. But an online poll that amassed more than 33,000 votes showed that public support was in favour of Doha, 53.2% to London’s 46.8%.
The race went right down to the wire, with both bids pulling out all the stops in the closing stages. Doha offered to foot the £5million bill for the prizemoney at the championships, while London argued that the increased TV rights of London would be worth more to the IAAF than £5million.
Ed Warner, chairman of UKA and one of the leaders of London’s 2017 bid, said: “If you have a strong foundation, you can afford periodically to take it to new territory. But if you chase the short-term sugar rush of virgin territory too often, you might turn round and find your sport is built on foundations of sand.”
Meanwhile, the head of the Doha bid stated that having the championships in the Middle East for the first time would open the gates for athletics to reach undeveloped regions and markets. There were even rumours that Doha’s Sheikh Saoud held private 1-2-1 meetings in his suite with IAAF members last night.
All along, London had argued that they had a strong athletics tradition and a proven track record for hosting major athletics competitions. Conversely, Doha could not ignore their own relatively weak interest in the sport, but they had money and technology on their side, having proposed a renovated air-conditioned stadium with the first ever stadium-wide 100 metre panoramic screen.
The final presentations got off to a bumpy start, as the media audio system was accidentally left on when IAAF senior vice-president Bob Hersh gave his evaluation report of the two bids, which was not meant to be for public consumption. He raised the issue of athletics crowds in Doha emptying the stadium long before the end of the meeting, as happened at this year’s Diamond League meeting, and then the audio feed promptly cut off.
With that blip out of the way, each party then pulled out all the stops in their final presentations. Doha were up first and they promised that they will “sell every ticket, for every session, for every day”, adding that researchers have discovered they can create the “optimal” temperature for each event – delivering world records, they claim, and ensuring that there will not be any rain.
And then came Doha’s cash offer. They revealed they have a budget of $200million to support the championships, along with $29million in sponsorship and broadcast rights and $7.2million in prize money.
With Doha’s $236.2million offer on the table, London had a tough act to follow. Bid leader Seb Coe, accompanied by the likes of Denise Lewis, Jodie Williams and Ed Warner, started by tackling the finances head-on, promising record revenues from sponsorship, broadcast and hospitality. He also said that London crowds will fill every single seat, and deliver a 20-year legacy to the sport and to the IAAF.
Warner then played a surprise card by matching Doha’s offer to fund the $7.2million in prize money for the event. Lewis then reiterated the various ways in which London 2017 would be an athlete-centric championships, then UKA chief executive Niels de Vos followed by promising record revenues and would work to bring the London 2012 sponsors – which are worth $1billion – to the IAAF.
Despite the prize money offer and the lure of potential sponsors, London still had to contend with a guaranteed sum of $236.2million promised by Doha. But sports minister Hugh Robertson then hammered home London’s closing blow on the finance front by pointing out that government has invested £9.3billion in sport via the London 2012 Olympics – a number that dwarfed Doha’s figures.
Coe rounded out the presentation by naming his ‘colleagues and friends’ on the IAAF council who helped in choosing London for the 2012 Games. “I delivered the 2012 Olympics and the future of the stadium, now back us for 2017,” said Coe, his closing message clear.
“After Singapore I would have given permission for someone to shoot me if I worked on another bid again. But I had an urge to complete unfinished business, to cement the unambiguous vision of connecting and inspiring with the next generation,” he said, before a final subtle dig at the Doha bid. “Work with me to enhance global health of our sport and the stadium will be full of people who look like they want to be there, and know why they are there.”
Ultimately though, the IAAF council were won over by London’s bid and they won by 16 votes to 10. It is the second major sporting event to be brought to UK shores by the two-time Olympic 1500m champion, after his team five years ago won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
It was fourth time lucky for London, having previously put forward bids for three other IAAF World Championships and each falling flat for various reasons. Qatar, meanwhile, can at least draw some consolation in the fact that they will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and are still in the running to stage the 2020 Olympic Games.
Earlier in the day, the IAAF announced several host cities for other major championships in 2014. The Polish city of Sopot will stage the IAAF World Indoor Championships, while the IAAF World Junior Championships will be held in Eugene – the first time an IAAF track and field championship has been held on US soil. Copenhagen will stage the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships, and Marrakech will host the IAAF Continental Cup.