x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Inspectors open to Doha's 2017 bid despite heat in month of September

Heat in the Middle East a factor but not a deal breaker for the World Athletics Championships, say inspectors.

DOHA // Qatar's searing heat will be a factor but not a "deal breaker" in determining whether Doha will host the 2017 world championships, the head of an inspection team from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said yesterday.

Bob Hersh, an American who is also an IAAF vice-president, said the weather would be something council members must "reflect upon" when choosing either Doha or London to host track and field's showpiece event.

Hersh spoke after his evaluation panel finished a two-day visit to the Gulf nation, just over a month before the sport's governing body chooses the host city in Monaco on November 11. Hersh said he was impressed with Doha's plans to air-condition the main stadium and hold the marathons at night when temperatures are cooler.

He said air conditioning "needs to be done" to "create a more favourable environment for athletes and spectators".

Qatar, which is also bidding for the 2020 Olympics, proposes holding the competition from September 9 to 17. London plans to hold the event in late July or early August.

"It's hot," Hersh said. "We all know that the heat is an obvious concern here in Doha in September when championship is proposed to be held. What the Qataris showed us is the possibly of air conditioning an open stadium."

The Qataris said a solar-powered cooling system is planned for the 40,000-seat Al Khalifa Stadium. The system will blow cool air below the seats and cool the field, part of a US$400 million (Dh1.468 billion) renovation of the 35-year-old facility to be finished a year ahead of the competition, organisers said.

Hersh said tough conditions are nothing new for world championships. He cited several examples including the 1997 competition in Athens, Greece, and 1999 in Seville, Spain, where the weather was extremely hot. "It is certainly not a deal breaker," he said.

Inspectors came to Qatar from London, where bid organisers played up what they contend is their clear advantage when it comes to weather.