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Coe defends decision to hold World Athletics Championships in Doha

MONACO - JUNE 09: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) IAAF President Sebastian Coe speaks during a press conference after the council meeting on June 9, 2019 in Monaco. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

Despite criticism over swathes of empty seats and dangerously-hot conditions , International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe defended the decision to hold the World Athletic Championships in Doha, and insisted that their strategy of seeking out new host venues would not change.

Coe blamed the regional blockade of Qatar by its neighbours for the poor attendances. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and its allies have cut direct air, land and shipping routes, as well as closed airspace to Qatari aircraft, and restricted their citizens from attending.

He said, according to AFP: “It was always going to be a challenge and this is a country that has to deal with a set of circumstances that none of us foresaw five years ago when Qatar was given the chance of hosting it.”

“I went through Oman and sat there for four or five hours. That’s a 45-minute flight. The ability to move around (to Qatar) has been severely restricted.”

Coe turned attention towards the quality of performances at the event, saying: “We want a full stadium and that has to be the challenge but we need to focus also on the absolute quality of what we are seeing here. I can’t remember a World Championships actually that has delivered at this level for a long time.”

“If we’re a global sport, we have to be seen as global,” he added.

“It can’t keep going back to the same eight or nine places that we’ve always sort of focused on in the past.

“There are places which are going to take longer for us to go to but people have to believe this sport is theirs, it’s not just rooted in a handful of European capitals.”

The 62-year old was re-elected as president last week, and was the only candidate for his role. He will now serve a second four-year term until 2023.