Khalifa Stadium. Image: Preacher lad/CC BY-SA-4.0
"Best times were never in the cards" – Criticism grows louder
The World Athletics Championships have come to an end in Doha. Somehow the spectacle in Qatar, one of the richest countries in the world, didn’t create the right atmosphere. Collapsed athletes, empty ranges in the capital arena, lazily faded out conditions on the construction sites around, and everywhere traceable: The absolute disparity between a rich high snobiety and more than two million underprivileged people. Of the statistically recorded 2.7 million inhabitants of Qatar, about 2.3 million are migrant workers from Asia and Arab countries.
"Who wants to see games in Saudi Arabia??" Tilman Engel, a businessman and analyst who, as a sports consultant, is very familiar with the situation on the golf course, is often quoted as saying. Instead of Saudi Arabia, now Qatar: The emirate has hardly marketed this World Championships in Athletics internationally in the run-up, says Engel, and compares the precarious situation with the Handball World Championships. Accordingly, he had not expected many fans from other countries to travel to the stadium. Instead, everyone was to watch carefully whether Qatar would be able to fill the Khalifa Stadium during the competitions?
Final without guests
Qatar could not. For example, the men’s 200m final, it was allowed as a "Final without guests" in the history of sports. 200m sprint winner Noah Lyles (USA) ran his lap of honor in Doha on the fifth day of the World Championships in Athletics in front of largely empty stands – the already few fans were already gone. But it doesn’t matter, was his laconically abbreviated comment, the only important thing is to be in the conversation via social media: "And that we are! It doesn’t matter if the World Championships are held in Doha or elsewhere.’"
The officials don’t seem to care, for example Sebastian Coe from the IAAF, who at the end of the event praises the event in the highest tones and simply laughs away problems.
It didn’t seem to matter to the sheikhs, the Qatari nobles and officials who, as several press organs pointed out with relish last week, followed the whole thing in air-conditioned seats like gladiatorial combat. Of course, sport also serves political purposes, and here in particular: regional power Saudi Arabia is said to have been working behind the scenes to deprive Qatar of the World Cup – but unsuccessfully.
Athletes as laboratory animals
However, the athletes themselves are not indifferent to the discrepancy that has become apparent to a worldwide TV audience. "walkers who stagger like the undead through the glowing night. marathon runners cowering in wheelchairs at the end of their tether", these images are memorable. "Out there they put us in an oven. They have turned us into guinea pigs, laboratory animals", complained the French walker Yohann Diniz.
In the SWR round "Talk at the lake" on Saturday evening the German walker over 50km Carl Dohmann openly criticized the awarding of the world championship 2019 to Qatar. Especially Dohmann emphasized the uncertainties in the preparations for the run. The subject was also the "Ice scoop", a precaution that should actually help the long-distance athletes to better endure the extreme heat. While showering after the competition, he felt pain in his neck ("as from a burn"). It turned out that the freeze burn was caused by the ice pieces placed in a flap on the back of his neck. Team mate Nathanael Seiler got cramps from kilometer 20 (of 50), fought until five kilometers before the finish, before he was taken out of the competition by the DLV medical team. "Best times were never to be thought of." About half of the participants of the discipline left the competition early.
Hateful sides of the (spare?) Game
What was interesting was what Dohmann said about the attitude of the team in view of the conditions in Doha. The team had discussed and finally agreed to start the competition – and to save the criticism for later. However, Dohmann’s remarks also revealed that (already when the World Championships were awarded) it was obvious that decisions were made over the heads of the athletes.
"Drauben" the malocher belong to the hateful sides of the "spare game", Workers from India, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, twelve or fourteen of them living in one room on the construction sites, who have had their passports taken away from them, who earn perhaps 250 dollars a month. While they toil in their thousands, millionaire Qataris pass the time in their air-conditioned homes or at the popular camel races, where sundries of expensive luxury cars await the winners. The athletes of Doha leave the field in the meantime. For them it was only a stopover in an alien universe. But with the end of the World Cup, the voices of the critics are also getting louder.
At the end of the World Meeting, television provided images of an armada of buses carrying migrants from the surrounding area, who were conscripted by their masters to fill the stadium for the cameras during the final stage. After a full shift (in the usual heat of construction), the poorest of the poor were allowed to render a loyal service to the state. According to one interviewee, they had to occupy empty seats in the audience until 11:00 p.m. after the end of the shift. The obedience of this absurd ghost scenery was meticulously supervised by the security service.