Migrant workers and children could be used to fill seats at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, as ticket sales are slower than expected.
Informed sources have reportedly told the Guardian newspaper that it is highly likely that large numbers of free tickets will be given away to migrant workers and children who will be bussed in by organisers.
The World Athletics Championships has already been forced to cover the top section of the 40,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium, to give the illusion of full stands on TV.
Tickets, which start at 60 Qatari rial (£13), are still available for the event, which begins on Friday and runs until October 6.
Sources have told the Guardian that only 50,000 tickets have been sold across the 10 days of action.
When the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) launched the ticket sales process in November, it said organisers were prioritising strong attendances over profits.
According to the Guardian, an IAAF spokesperson accepted that ticket sales had been “challenging” but said that nobody could have foreseen the boycott of Qatar by other gulf states.
When asked about the possibility of free tickets being given away, the spokesperson added: “Surely it is a good thing that communities across Qatar will be getting tickets? We believe it will inspire a whole new generation of fans into the sport.”
Major sporting events held in Qatar have traditionally been met with small crowds, including the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, which concluded in Doha around the same time as tickets went on sale for the World Athletics Championships.