2019 Doha World Athletics Championships – A Disastrous Start!
British middle distance athlete turned politician turned President of the IAAF – International Association of Athletics Federations Lord Sebastian Coe has let down the women marathoners by awarding the 2019 World Athletics Championships to Qatar. The first event of the 2019 World Athletics Championships – women’s marathon saw catastrophic damage to international athletes from all over the world due to high temperature of 32.7 degrees Centigrade with high humidity of 73%. The 2019 World Athletics Championships started disastrously, courtesy Sebastian Coe.
68 women marathoners lined up for the first event – the marathon, which was scheduled for a midnight event under heavy lights. The lights increased the heat index further to punish the marathoners. The winning time at the 2019 World Athletics Championships was an astonishing 2:32.43. The winning time was so slow that it has not been recorded in the last three and a half decades. 28 out of the 68 participants couldn’t finish the race because of severe high temperature. The women’s marathon was a big disaster for the IAAF and Qatar.
French Decathlon World Record holder Kevin Mayer was very vocal in stating the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships as a total disaster. In his interview with BBC, Kevin Mayer stated, “We can all see it's a disaster, there is no-one in the stands, and the heat has not been adapted at all. There have already been nearly 30 withdrawals in the women's marathon. It's sad! We have to leave reason aside and more concentrate on the passion, because if not, I would have boycotted these championships. We haven't really prioritized athletes, when organizing the championships here. It makes it difficult.”
Harsh words indeed by the French Decathlon World Record holder. The sparse crowds to encourage athletes also speak about IAAF’s big failure. One wonders, how the IAAF President Sebastian Coe awarded Doha the 2019 World Athletics Championships. Didn’t the seasoned former athlete turned politician Coe have any idea that Doha’s culture is not athletics loving people? Didn’t he know the severity of high temperatures of Doha? Sebastian Coe had endangered the international athletics world with all his calculations to make money.
The high ticket pricing has also kept the audience away from the Khalifa Stadium. Daily tickets are highly priced from €14 to €71. In any athletics championships or meet, the 100m sprint is the cynosure for the audience. Sadly, the fastest men on the earth ran the 100m final to empty stands in Khalifa Stadium. This was indeed disastrous for even the participants along with the organizers. The brutal heat added to the misery of the marathoners, 50km walkers and even the 5000m Aruba runner Jonathan Busby, who collapsed in the severe heat of Qatar.
Women marathoners were carried off the course on stretchers, wheelchairs and golf carts to medical attention. Belarus marathoner Volha Mazuronak stated after finishing fifth, “There is nothing to breathe. The humidity kills you. I thought I wouldn’t finish. It’s disrespect towards the athletes. A bunch of high-ranked officials gathered and decided that it would take the world championships here, but they are sitting in the cool and they are probably sleeping right now.” Such a marathon event has never been held in any part of the world and the IAAF has let down in every which way.
Canadian marathoner Lyndsay Tessier finished ninth and stated, “You see somebody down on the course and it’s just extremely grounding and scary. That could be you in the next km, the next 500m. It was really scary and intimidating and daunting. I am just really grateful to have finished standing up.” Ethiopian marathon Coach Haji Adillo Roba stated, “We never would have run a marathon in these conditions in our own country.” All the three Ethiopian runners could not even reach the halfway mark of 21km to finish their race, including Tokyo Marathon winner Ruti Aga. Three Ethiopians pulled out of the race.
The frustration among the women marathoners was evident, because all those who completed the race in severe heat and high humidity revealed the callousness of the IAAF officials and the organizers. American Roberta Groner, the 41-year-old mother of three finished sixth. She revealed, “It was absolutely the most brutal marathon I have ever done. The key was to finish and not hurt myself. I was constantly drinking or pouring water on me. Either, I had my own water bottle in my hand or I was coming up to the water station and dumping their water on me. I used a headband with some ice to trickle down my neck, when I could. We tried as hard as we could to stay as hydrated as possible.”
IAAF officials gave false assurances that athlete welfare was the top priority. Many felt the conditions were so severe that the race should not have been run in the first place. Had the IAAF cancelled the marathon and 50km walking race due to high temperatures, the world would have hailed their real concern for the safety of marathoners and walkers. Instead, they went ahead to conduct women’s marathon in 32.7 degrees Centigrade with a humidity at 73%.
It was really pathetic to see the carnage behind the race leader as runner after runners collapsed due to brutal heat conditions. The sweltering conditions created chaos among runners, as they collapsed in distress cursing the heat and the officials for conducting such a race. Collapsed athletes were regularly brought in on stretchers to the makeshift hospital near the finish line much to the shock of the sparse crowd and game officials. No wonder, the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships’ women marathon will always be remembered as the “Worst Marathon” ever conducted by the IAAF under President Sebastian Coe.
It was also shameful for the IAAF to defend their stance in spite of 28 casualties in women’s marathon stating, “In the women’s marathon 68 competitors started and 40 finished – which is comparable to the completion rate at previous world championships in Tokyo (1991) and Moscow (2013) … Thirty athletes visited the medical centre as a precaution. A small number were kept under observation and one athlete was referred to the hospital for observation but later released.”
French 50km walker Yohann Diniz was really frustrated with IAAF officials’ callousness and shamefulness. He stated, “I am extremely upset! If we were in the stadium, we would have normal conditions, but outside they have placed us in a furnace, which is just not possible.” Yohann Diniz is the defending champion of the 50km walking race and will be attempting to defend his title. He forthrightly accused IAAF governing body for treating athletes as “guinea pigs” by staging their races in such severe outdoor conditions.
Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich won the first Gold medal of the 2019 World Athletics Championships for Kenya clocking 2:32.43 for the 42.195 km race. She not only survived the grueling course, but also won the race. After the race, she was carried in wheelchair. Before the women’s marathon started, even some officials and most of the athletes feared the conditions were not good enough for the race. However, the organizers decided to start the race as scheduled. This marathon will always be the “Black Spot” in IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe’s career for life.
Conducting the World Athletics Championships in the Middle East in severe heat and high humidity is the biggest blunder of the IAAF. It will be interesting to see, how the men’s marathon race will be conducted by the organizers on the 5th of October 2019. The heat is one of the most talked about factors for staging the 2019 World Athletics Championships in the richest nation of the world Qatar, where athletics has no culture whatsoever among Qataris.
The severe heat and high humidity took a toll on the winner Ruth Chepngetich, who collapsed after few minutes of the race. It was devastating to see only 7 athletes could finish the race under 2 hours 40 minutes. Bahrain’s Ruth Chelimo won the Silver medal clocking 2:33.46 followed by Namibia’s Helalia Johannes winning the Bronze medal with a time of 2:34.15. Ruth Chepngetich’s Personal Best is 2:17.08.
In the 50km Walk, the 43-year-old Portugal's Joao Vieira defied hell to become the oldest athlete to win a medal in World Athletics Championships’ history. He won the Silver medal behind Japan’s Suzuki Yusuke clocking 4:04.59. After the race, Joao Vieira stated, “For me, it was hell - very, very hot! How did I cope, just a lot of ice and cold water?” Qatar’s severe heat and high humidity took a toll on 14 out of the 46 walkers, who dropped out of the race. In the women’s 50km walking race, 6 out of the 24 competitors could not finish the race, because of severe hot conditions.
The IAAF, IOC and other international sports’ body like FIFA and others should think twice to award Qatar such big international sporting events in future for the sake of money to endanger athletes’ health conditions and career in severe hot conditions. IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe, who was drenched in sweat at the women’s marathon finish point, should know it better, because he was an athlete himself during his early years.