World track in Doha a hot time in the old town

With limitless chutzpah and limited freedoms, Qatar wants it all

Khalifa Stadium in Doha (worldstadiums.com)

Khalifa Stadium in Doha (worldstadiums.com / December 16, 2013)

I can't resist.

The best way to describe the Arab emirate of Qatar's attempt to become a world sports mecca is a Yiddish word.

Chutzpah.

In the fullest sense -- brazen ambition and bold aspiration.

First the 2022 World Cup.

Then another Olympic bid.

Now the Qataris have snookered the international track federation (IAAF) into accepting September dates in a Doha bid for the 2017 world track and field championships.

Given that the only other 2017 bidder is London, which may not even have a track in its 2012 Olympic Stadium by 2013, it seems Doha has a very good chance at getting the worlds when they are awarded in November.

If IAAF officials are dumb enough (wait...that may be a tautology) to buy the Qatar logic that the weather will be tolerable enough for an outdoor track meet in September, that will mean:

*The gas-rich Qataris have bought another major international event that makes utterly no sense for them to have.

(Think Qatar doesn't buy success?  All three of its medalists at the track worlds have been Kenyan mercenaries lured by money to run for Qatar -- and its citizen-of-convenience laws.)

*No one in the IAAF bothered to do any meteorological research.

In the case of the latter, I will be happy to oblige.

The high today -- Sept. 8 -- was 109.  The forecast high tomorrow is 109.

According to weatherunderground.com, the average high temperature in Qatar in September, 2010, was 102 degrees, the average low 87, the average mean 95.

The thermometer hit 118 on Sept. 9, 2010.  The high was in triple digits on 23 of 30 days.

Yes, I know the Qataris would stage the event in the climate-controlled (but not domed) Khalifa Stadium, and I know the nights would be warm but not unbearable - unless you are a distance runner.

Imagine, though, how hot the place would be during the days when there are morning and early afternoon events, such as heats (boy, is that a fitting description) or parts of the decathlon and heptathlon, when the desert sun would fry everything not covered by the partial roof.

When I asked Doha 2017 spokesman Simon Cory-Wright of TSE Consulting for more specific dates, he did not answer the question, saying only that the IAAF has ``already approved (September dates) as falling within the acceptable window."

"Doha 2017 is committed to being a flexible and innovative host in all areas and are looking forward to discussing and finalizing all aspects of the bid with the IAAF,"  Cory-Wright wrote.

Cory-Wright did not respond to a second email asking if there were plans for the stadium to be entirely covered.

But the weather isn't the most absurd part of having the worlds in September or the Olympics in October, an option the International Olympic Committee has accepted for Doha's second consecutive Olympic bid.

As I wrote in a column about Doha's bid for the 2020 Olympics, no TV networks in Europe, South America or the United States want the Summer Games to interfere with soccer or football programming.

While track is no longer important enough in the U.S. for broadcasters to worry about conflicts with football, since they could program track as off-peak fodder, European broadcasters would be concerned with soccer conflicts during a 9-day world championships.

There are other parts of the Qatar situation that make it the wrong choice.

The most important is its limitations on women:  Qatar is one of the countries that never has had a woman on its Olympic teams.  At the track worlds that ended Sunday in Daegu, South Korea, the Qataris once again had no women on their team.

The IAAF has been forward-thinking in its treatment of women, adding women's events to the world meet program before they made it onto the Olympic program.  

So how can the IAAF give the worlds to a country that does not allow women the same sporting opportunities as men?

The answer to that, sadly, is it already did: the 2010 world indoors.  So I guess the IAAF doesn't stand for gender equality after all.  Which of the male-dominated international sports bodies really do?

Then there is the issue of people.  

The country has a population of just 1.5 million, according to the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. State Department.  (None better be an uncloseted homosexual; same-sex activity is illegal in Qatar.)  Well over two-thirds are foreign workers without citizenship.

How is that tiny population going to fill stadiums for the World Cup and the Olympics -- or even the world track, with just one stadium involved?  What foreigners are going to visit Qatar in September or October, when school is in session throughout the world?

Who wants to visit a place where, according to the State Department's 2010 Report on International Religious Freedom, Hindus and Buddhists -- i.e., most of the foreign workers, some 500,000 -- cannot practice their religion publicly, where the newspapers publish frequent anti-Semitic cartoons, where proselytizing for a religion other than Islam can bring a prison sentence?

Who wants to visit a place so hot only the hardiest -- or craziest -- will venture about for touristic purposes during time away from the stadium?

The Arab world nevertheless has not been categorically denied the chance to host sporting events. Qatar just won the 2015 Team Handball World Championships in a decision that left the French dumbstruck.  Both Dubai and Qatar have been the site for tennis, swimming, golf and track -- either indoors or at a more temperate time of year.  That makes at least meteorological sense.

As for gender equality and religious freedom and non-discrimination, the espoused principles of sporting bodies, when do ideals ever have a chance against self-serving hypocrisy?  When did morality ever have a chance against money?


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