Lord Coe labels Doha 2019 ‘best ever’ World Championships on athlete performance

The IAAF has drawn criticism for taking the World Championships to Qatar.

By Press Association Published: 6 October 2019 - 4.57pm

IAAF president Lord Coe has hailed the sporting achievements at the 2019 World Championships in Doha as the best ever.

Crowds have been largely disappointing at the event over the past 10 days, although the Local Organising Committee claimed over 40,000 watched Friday’s session.

Just 7,266 fans were in the stands on Sunday with the women’s 100 metres final – when Dina Asher-Smith claimed silver behind Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – run in front of a virtually empty stadium.

IAAF World Athletics Championships 2019 – Day Three – Khalifa International Stadium
The women’s 100m final was run in front of a largely empty stadium (Mike Egerton/PA)

The air, sea and land blockade on Qatar from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt has been partially blamed for the attendances. The countries have cut diplomatic and trade ties with Doha, claiming it was too close to Iran.

But Coe believes the Championships will ultimately be viewed as a success.

Speaking at the closing press conference on Sunday, he said: “Our sport is in pretty good shape. It is pretty clear to us on athlete performance this is the best World Championships we have ever had.

“It is really important the sport moves around the world, and it cannot forge its relationships based on political structures or transitory political systems.

“We would not have sporting relationships (otherwise). That is why sport will continue to work and sweat as hard as it does to make social change.

IAAF World Athletics Championships 2019 – Day Ten – Khalifa International Stadium
Lord Coe feels Doha 2019 will be viewed as a success despite the lack of crowds (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We are not competitors, we are collaborators and organisations that are smart are actually partnering as they realise they can elicit that change.”

The 40,000 capacity of the Khalifa International Stadium was cut to 21,000 and there were 17,000 places available for fans once teams, guests and media seating was taken into account.

The first Saturday saw 11,342 in the stadium with a midweek high of 31,704 on Thursday before Friday’s session.

On Friday the LOC claimed 42,180 were in the stadium during the course of the evening, which saw home favourite Mutaz Barshim win the high jump.

IAAF World Athletics Championships 2019 – Day Five – Khalifa International Stadium
There have been lots of empty seats at the Khalifa International Stadium over the past 10 days (Martin Rickett/PA)

Seating was sold in blocks and, once the ticket-holder had entered, they could sit anywhere in the section.

When the fans left, the LOC was able to let others in and, specifically on Friday, said it was aware of school groups who would leave early, allowing seats to be re-filled.

Coe also defended Holland’s Sifan Hassan, who followed up her 10,000m gold by winning the 1500m on Saturday.

The 26-year-old was coached by Alberto Salazar, who was last week banned for four years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for doping violations.

Qatar Athletics Worlds
Sifan Hassan, coached by Alberto Salazar, picked up two golds (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

Coe again questioned if it was fair to put athletes immediately under suspicion.

“Sadly it is the world we live in. It is inevitable that outstanding performances, given the broader nature of trust, are permanently questioned,” he said.

“I’m sure that when I was breaking three world records in 41 days back in 1979, there were people looking slightly askance at what I did.

“I think we have to be quite careful about how we draw conclusions from the performance paradigm and shifts in that performance.”