POSTED: November 11th 2011

NEIL WILSON: Doha bid was stunning and should come back for 2019

Khalifa Stadium was the centerpiece of the 2017 bid / Doha 2017
Khalifa Stadium was the centerpiece of the 2017 bid / Doha 2017

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

NEIL WILSON in MONACO: Two years ago the IAAF was warned by its-then treasurer that it must cut its budgets for four years if it was to avoid spending its entire reserve. Yesterday it was strong enough to wave away a $40 million inducement to take its 2017 world championships to Doha.

By a margin of 16 votes to 10, its council voted instead for London after the stunning offer from Doha to sponsor its entire Diamond League programme, its second-level World Series events, its glittering annual athlete of the year occasion and its continental championships.

That amounted to $29 million, to run for five years up to the staging of the world championships in Doha. On top, its bid team offered the IAAF $3 million to underwrite the improvement of athletic facilities in developing countries and the $7.2 million cost of the 2017 championships’ prize money. 

It was a colossal amount when Doha would also have been spending $80 million on hosting the championships and another $120 million on rebuilding its stadium and constructing an athletes village.

Nothing, perhaps, for the country with the world’s highest GDP per capita but it must have been a mouth-watering prospect for the IAAF. Yet it did not bite on the inducement. Instead, as its president Lamine Diack said, “London won easily.”

Diack certainly voted for them. So did senior vice-president Bob Hersh. And one of the strongest reasons for their support was the controversy in London itself around “spoiling - as its critics saw it – a potential Premier League football stadium with a track that would become a white elephant after the 2012 Olympics.

“That was an insult to our sport, so I reacted to do my best to keep the track,” said Diack after the vote in Monte Carlo.

Diack now has a firm commitment, delivered in the Senegalese’s native French by London mayor Boris Johnson, that the track will remain “forever and ever”. It got his vote.

London’s bid president Sebastian|Coe will be a big winner. It puts him firmly in the driving seat to succeed Diack in 2015 as IAAF president.

So will be the International Olympic Committee which did not want Doha to be on the high ground of having the premier Olympic sport’s major event on its cv when it presents itself in 2013 as an Olympic candidate city for 2020.

But let’s not make the mistake of dismissing Doha as a loser. Okay, it will always struggle to convince that it can overcome the problem of its high temperatures with solar-powered air conditioning. It will never be welcomed wholeheartedly when it must schedule a championships outside of the regular athletic season.

But it was a well-delivered, highly-financed bid that would have won against any other country but London on this occasion, and it will probably come back in two years’ time to win the 2019 edition.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · IAAF · Neil Wilson · London · Doha · IAAF World Championships · Lamine Diack

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