Organisers of the World Athletics Championships in Doha, which starts this week, have denied that migrant workers and children are to be used to fill empty seats.
Earlier this week, sources 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.
A spokesperson for the Qatari organisers told SportBusiness that free tickets were not being handed out, but that children were being offered a 20 per cent discount on tickets as part of an outreach campaign to younger fans.
Only 50,000 tickets have been sold across the 10 days of action, with the top section of the 40,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium (pictured) to be covered.
The IAAF said in a statement, according to SportBusiness: “The capacity of Khalifa Stadium for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 was set at 21,000. The political situation in the region has changed since the bid and many athletics fans from the Middle East will not be permitted to travel by their own countries to Qatar for what is the biggest sporting event in the world this year. However, we expect they will be part of a worldwide broadcast audience that should exceed one billion people.
“The Doha LOC has risen to the challenge by running an extensive marketing campaign targeting schools, community groups and the large expatriate communities living in Qatar, and interest in the championships is growing strongly. Given our past experience with the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships and the annual IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, we expect that will continue to rise over the coming weeks.”
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 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) launched the ticket sales process in November, it said organisers were prioritising strong attendances over profits.
Tickets, which start at 60 Qatari rial (£13), are still available for the event, which begins on Friday and runs until October 6.
Image: Preacher lad