The time when Doha won the Worlds hosting rights…
Five years ago, track and field in the Middle East gained a huge boost with Doha’s election as hosts of the 2019 Worlds.
November 18, 2014, is a red-letter day in the history of Qatar athletics. It was on that Tuesday the country’s capital city was elected as the hosts of the 2019 IAAF World Championships. The air of anticipation among the Qatar bid team and their ecstatic jubilation after winning the bid at the Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo, Monaco, are still fresh in memory.
Doha came out on top in both rounds of voting. It polled 12 votes to Eugene’s nine and Barcelona’s six in the first round after which the Spanish city was eliminated. Doha then went on to win the second round 15-12.
Many believe the passionate pleas of two Qatari athletes, high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim and sprinter Mariam Farid, both of whom incidentally feature in the Qatar team for the 2019 World Championships, helped swing the votes in Doha’s favour.
Before voting, Mutaz had called upon the IAAF council members to take a bold stand.
“Are you willing to expand the sport we love? Are you willing to inspire the younger generation?” Mutaz had implored the officials, requesting them to take track and field to an entirely new geographical location.
Mariam Farid, who spoke from her heart in fluent French, helped add to the bid’s feel-good factor. While the city’s excellent bid file and presentation made an initial impression, the two speeches apparently convinced not only the sceptics but even the rivals.
An IAAF Council member, who wished to remain anonymous, later acknowledged the impact of the appeal by these two athletes, especially Mutaz.
“There was so much emotion in his speech. He didn’t refer notes, but spoke to us directly. Here was a home-grown Qatari talent who passionately wanted the IAAF Worlds to come home. It resonated strongly among everyone present,” he had said.
But for Mutaz, it was just another day doing what he believes in – giving one’s best.
“I was given a script to study and I glanced at it once. I didn’t want to sound like I’d learnt it by heart. I just decided to stand there and speak my heart out. My eyes were moist as I spoke and it must’ve made an impact,” said the champion high jumper.
While Eugene, home of Nike, presented a strong bid, Doha’s proven track record of organising major sports events helped things go in its favour.
“I’m sure that we’ll have a wonderful edition of the World Championships in Doha. They’re committed to developing their country and their community, and they’re doing the right things,” commented the then-IAAF President Lamine Diack.
Sheikh Saud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who headed the Doha bid team responded, saying, “It’s a privilege and honour to have the trust of the IAAF. I’m confident that with the support of the IAAF we’ll be hosting one of the best World Championships.”
Qatar started organising IAAF Grand Prix and Super Grand Prix events way back in 1997, and has also been hosting the annual Diamond League meeting ever since its inception in 2010.
Come Friday, when Middle East’s first-ever outdoor IAAF World Championships open, it will be a matter of pride for Qatar and a just reward for its decades of hard work and unstinted support for sports development.