IAAF under fire for Doha decision as crowds fail to show for World Championships

The women’s 100m final took place in front of largely empty stands.

By Press Association Published: 29 September 2019 - 10.06pm

The IAAF’s decision to take the World Championships to Qatar continued to attract criticism on Sunday as the women’s 100 metres final took place in front of largely empty stands.

The Khalifa International Stadium has barely been half full during the opening weekend in Doha.

Only 13,288 – including 1,484 guests – watched the first session on Friday, while Christian Coleman won the men’s 100m on Saturday night in front of a sparse crowd.

The stadium has had its 40,000 capacity cut to around 24,000 for the event.

Denise Lewis, who won Olympic heptathlon gold in 2000, told BBC Sport: “I walked into the stadium tonight and looked around and said, ‘Is this the World Championships?’ We’ve waited to October to have stands like this – empty. Absolutely shocking.

“The athletes, they work so hard, they try to peak at the right time for an empty stadium. I just think it’s not right. Our governing body has let our athletes down massively.”

French decathlon world champion Kevin Mayer was another to hit out at the decision to go to the Middle East, with the heat also proving a problem in the road events.

“We can all see it’s a disaster, there is no-one in the stands, and the heat has not been adapted at all,” Mayer told L’Equipe on Saturday.

British sprinter Adam Gemili, who reached Monday’s 200m semi-finals after winning his heat on Sunday, also questioned the choice of host nation, and believes athletes need to take the lead as they continue to look for a global draw after Usain Bolt’s retirement in 2017.

IAAF World Athletics Championships 2019 – Day Three – Khalifa International Stadium
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce celebrated her 100m gold in front of empty stands (Mike Egerton/PA)

He said: “It’s a weird World Champs. It’s very strange. It makes the British Champs look quite good!

“It feels weird not having Usain around and that’s massive. The onus is on all us athletes to make this champs even more exciting and there’s so many exciting events coming up.

“The women’s sprints maybe this year are even trumping the men’s. You do notice it.

“It’s not in our hands (where they go). We have no say. We get told to turn up and run and that’s what we do. It makes no difference to us. Hopefully there’s going to be an athlete representative.

“(Former javelin thrower) Goldie Sayers is up for it and hopefully she can get on that commission (IAAF athletes’ commission). She does great stuff and she’s passionate about track and field. If she gets selected things will start happening.”