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February 11, 2016
IAAF: Concerns over World Championships in Doha not relevant

nna Legnani, Assistant Communications Director of IAAF (Photo: Carlo Pozzoni/AIPS)
by Andri Yrkill Valsson, AIPS Young Reporter, Iceland

DOHA, February 10, 2016 – In the shadow of a criminal investigation luring over the IAAF, where the honor of sports has comeunder great scrutiny, the show must go on, they say. Qatar is on its way into the history books, in becoming the first Gulf state to host the World Championships in 2019, although it was revealed in January that their bid for the event has been putunder investigation by the IAAF’s ethics committee.

“We will see what the ethics committee decides, but I saw Doha’s bid documents and the value of the bid was really good. I don’t know if those allegations have any grounds, but the investigation will clarify this,” said Anna Legnani, Assistant Communications Director of IAAF.

It was revealed in 2014 that key figures within the IAAF had been involved in a bribery scandal prior to the bid; hence the criminal investigation. The Qatar Athletics Federation has denied any wrongdoing involving the bid, but the topic is just adding oil to the fire of scandals where IAAF is involved. The suspension of the Russian Athletics Federation and the possible ban of Russian athletes from the 2016 Olympics in Rio due to doping, is the strongest example.

Although when the big moment arives in 2019, Legnani is not concerned that the discussion will be leaning more towards the politics surrounding the event instead of the sport itself.

“The investigations are taking place now and the Championship is in 2019, so I’m quite confident that by the time we actually arrive here – we will be talking about sports,” she said, and underlined her opinion that Qatar will be a good host for the event.

“I really am a nitpicker and can be very critical, because we need to point out the weaknesses so they can be improved. But the Doha bid was extremely good. I would definitely say they deserved to host the 2019 World Championships, based on the facts that I saw.”

Is the west just pointing fingers?

But that’s not all. Bribery and scandals aside; the discussion regarding human rights issues and concerns of Doha’s extreme heat have been among the concerns raised after Doha’s bid for the event was agreed. This is not the first time though that Qatar will organize a big event for the IAAF, having hosted the 2010 World Indoor Championships.

Then, the event was held at the Aspire Dome; the indoor training facility complex founded in 2004, which had already been built. The same thing will be happening in 2019, where the World Championships will be at the Khalifa International Stadium. Although, the stadium is being renovated prior to the event, with Amnesty International questioning the treatment of workers, Legnani is not concerned.

“Of course I have read the investigations [regarding the labor workers’ poor conditions] but I do sincerely believe that Qatar is making an effort in changing certain aspects of the work legislation. There are issues everywhere. Even the western countries that like pointing fingers at others should sometimes look at themselves and be as critical of their own as they are to some other countries,” said Legnani.

Regarding the heat concerns, the World Championships will be pushed for the first time from the traditional dates in August to the end of September. Even then, the temperature could still rise to around 35 degrees Celsius, but Legnani thinks the discussion surrounding this is not accurate.

“I really think this is not relevant and honestly, I think these are just excuses. We’ve had World Championships in Sevilla and Athens where it was also extremely hot and also in Helsinki where it was pouring down rain every day. For me, it’s a little bit like a lame excuse,” she said, determined.

And even though the IAAF’s ethics committee has an ongoing investigation about Doha’s bid for the World Championships, the finest athletes of the world will gather in Qatar in the fall of 2019. And with everything that has been going on within the IAAF, the hope remains that the focus will have shifted back to the athletes.

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