Luciano Barra has long been involved in the upper levels of sports management and at one time worked for the IAAF during the Primo Nebiolo regime. This article originally appeared at www.sportoliimpico.it
IAAF: ATHLETICS IN THE DESERT FOR THE 2019 IAAF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN DOHA
The history in sport, and more than ever in athletics – a discipline where seconds/centimeter and gesture of athletes beat the time – is marked by certain dates. So it has been in 1936 with the 4 gold medals by Jesse Owens; in 1948 with the 4 gold medals by Fanny Blankers-Koen; in 1954 with the first 4 minute mile by Roger Bannister; in 1968 with the incredible jumps by Dick Fosbury; the 4 gold medals in the seventies by Lasse Viren; the 4 gold medals by Carl Lewis in 1984 and the records and the medals by Usain Bolt in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
It is not difficult to predict that November 2014 will remain in the history of athletics – the time will say if positively or negatively – due to the IAAF decision to held its World Championships in October, out of the athletic season at a latitude not exactly proper to the outdoor athletics competition.
What happened in Monte Carlo last week has to be commented and cannot be hidden, only to hand down to posterity. The story is well known, three city candidate for the 2019 Outdoor Championships: Barcelona, Doha and Eugene. The IAAF Council has decided for Doha who has proposed as a date the first week in October. Some commentators have correctly remembered that already in 1956 in Melbourne and in 1964 in Tokyo the athletics competition have taken place so late in the season, forgetting that 50 or more years ago the athletic calendar was a bit different.
Doha has recently presented its candidature for the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, but the IOC Executive Committee did not allow them to go to the final ballot for two basic reasons: the date indicated by the IOC for the Summer Games was July/August and, in that period, in Doha was impossible to compete due to the high temperature.
Lately FIFA decided to award the 2022 World Cup to Doha. Once chosen the venue FIFA had understood that that June/July in Doha the temperature do not allow to play such a demanding tournament. These are the news about today about the polemics around the scandals born on such a decision and the debate about the dates when the World Cup should be held.
Now the IAAF, not taking into consideration these signs, contrary to what indicated in the application form – that indicates the period for their Championships in the month of August – has decided to follow FIFA route and has awarded the Championships to Doha for the first week of October 2019. In this date surely the climate is much better than in August but we are in any case talking about temperature between 35 ° /40 ° (in the shadow) as indicated in the Report presented by the IAAF to its Council. Ignoring that in 2020 the Olympic Games are planned in Tokyo starting at the end of July.
Obviously newspapers have reported how Doha, in order to achieve the awarding of the Championships, has put on the IAAF Council table, at the last moment and against the rules, some “additional benefit”, among them a check of 30 million US dollars, as 5 years sponsorships by a Qatari Bank. Naively, many have thought that this would have been the tramp car to achieve the Championship and to beat Eugene, the athletics American Mecca of athletics and Barcelona, a European Capital of athletics.
Who was in Monte Carlo has understood very well that the 30 million check has not been the real reason why 15 Member of the Council have voted Doha, against the 12 who voted for Eugene. What has happened with FIFA was fluttering in the corridor of the hotel, obviously there are no proof of it. Why then the 30 million were not important for the vote? Because due to the specific clause of the IAAF/Dentsu contract only 40% of that amount goes to the IAAF, therefore only 12 million. On the other side IAAF risks now to loose, in the renewal of the EBU contract, a large part of the 80 million that at the moment Eurovision gives to the IAAF. It will be difficult for EBU to digest a World Championship to be held in October. So the risk for the IAAF is that the balance will be negative.
But what looks surprising are the reasons, presented in writing on the IAAF Report, in which the candidature was based. Here they are:
a) The weather conditions
b) The International event calendar
c) The international television viewership
d) The possibility to the IAAF to extend its calendar in the 2019 season.
These four are clearly big lies that would have embarrassed even Pinocchio. The weather conditions? with 35 and plus degrees? The International calendar? With all the different Football events (Champions League, National League, National match for the Euro 2020 qualification), the professional NBA and NFL event in US, the Rugby World Championships in Japan? The international television viewership? For athletics in October? And the possibility for the IAAF to extend the 2019 season? With the Olympic Games 2020 just 10 months away?
In spite of these four lies the IAAF Council has voted for Doha. Funnily in favor all IOC Members present in the IAAF Council, the same one – two of them seat in the IOC Executive Board – who have excluded Doha by the 2016 and 2020 Olympic bid. All this without remembering that Qatar has raised in the athletic history more for the athletes acquired by country like Kenya and Nigeria and for the impossibility to organize National Championships in athletics due to lack of participants. Let us leave it to others, like Amnesty International and to the Women Association, to comment the political-social aspect of Qatar.
The IAAF due to the collapse of the TV ratings of the last years (8th Sport for number of hours and 16th as audience, following data provided by IAAF itself) has lost almost 10 million from the IOC distribution of funds from London 2012, equaled by Swimming and Gymnastics. Now there are rumors about the reduction of athletic events in the Olympic program, to allow other discipline to come in. I do remember about a previous IAAF President, Primo Nebiolo, that in front of such insult would have gone to Lausanne and he would have opened the door of the President Office with his feet.
What do we have to think? Was it by chance that this year the annual Gala organized by the Athletic Foundation took place in circus?