Athletes’ Paradise

Elisha Chauhan travelled to Doha to examine the Qatari capital’s formidable ‘athletes’ city’ concept, which will be introduced at its hosting of the 2019 IAAF World Championships.

In the Commonwealth it is a date for remembrance, but for many Qataris, November 11 is one to forget.

That day in 2011, capital city Doha lost out in its bid to host the 2017 IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) World Championships. London was the victor, the host of the 2012 Olympic Games narrowly winning a 16-10 vote.

However, Doha dusted itself off and returned to the ring by launching a successful bid for the 2019 edition, defeating rivals Eugene – the United States home of sportswear giant Nike – and Spanish city Barcelona. In Monaco last month, Barcelona was knocked out in the first round of IAAF Council voting (six votes) before Doha edged out Eugene 15-12 in the second round.

“We are confident that our bid to host the 2019 World Championships is complete,” Qatar Association of Athletics Federation (QAAF) president and bid leader Dahlan Al Hamad told SportBusiness International ahead of the vote when the IAAF evaluation commission – chaired by London 2012 chairman and IAAF vice-president Seb Coe – made its visit to Doha at the end of October.

“There were definitely some shortcomings in our 2017 bid. We studied them, and we have overcome them. We are really enthusiastic, and now is the time for us to host the event.

“If you look at what Doha was like when it bid for the 2017 [in 2011] to what it looks like now there’s more infrastructure in place. A lot of changes have been made from our previous bid, including hosting a night marathon.”

Despite the ongoing renovations of its Khalifa International Stadium – including the installation of a 100-metre-long screen – and training facilities found in the 250-hectre Aspire Zone sports complex, by far the standout anticipated feature of Doha’s 2019 World Championships is its athletes’ city concept.

This is a $20-billion supersized athletes’ village called Msheireb Downtown Doha – a 31-hectre development comprising accommodation and commercial buildings – which will be completed in 2016 and handed over for athlete use at the 2019 Championships, which will take place from September 28 to October 6.

Branded as the new ‘commercial hub of Doha’, Msheireb Downtown Doha has been designed so that natural air flow will filter through the streets rather than hit against buildings, with 1,400 solar panels contributing to 75 per cent of the area’s hot water, and so if an area gets too hot by the sun, panels of material will be automatically drawn from the tops of buildings to create shade. Athletes will also enjoy fingerprint security and 10,000 underground car park spaces whose availability can be checked via mobile phone.

Over 2,000 people will reside in 800 apartments from when Msheireb Downtown is completed. Annual leases will end every September so that the accommodation will be vacated for the athletes before the 2019 Championships start. A metro station connecting Msheireb to the international airport and the Khalifa Stadium will also be completed in 2018.

“In Msheireb, athletes will be able to mingle with the general public in the streets, which is something that has never been done before,” adds Al Hamad, who is also the Asian Athletics Association president and an IAAF vice-president.

“This is something we need to have, because you can’t seclude athletes when you are trying to globalise the Championships.”

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