The local organising committee (LOC) of the IAAF World Championships in Doha have blamed the embarrassingly low attendances on scheduling for global TV viewership and boycotts.
Athletics’ showpiece event has been marred by small crowds since the championships got underway in the Qatari capital on Friday. 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) closed off, reducing the capacity to 21,000.
During the headline men’s 100m final on Saturday, the stadium was half full. Reports have suggested that as few as 1,000 people were in the stadium for Sunday’s competitions.
Crowds did pick up during yesterday’s (Monday’s) events but the poor attendances on previous days have left the IAAF and the local organising committee facing questions over the reasons for the low turnout.
Chief executive of the IAAF, Jon Ridgeon, said, according to the BBC, they are “disappointed” by the attendance, adding: “We want bigger crowds. Rest assured we are working really hard with the local organising committee to generate bigger crowds.”
In a statement reported by the Reuters news agency, the local organising committee said that while Friday and Saturday attendances were “solid”, they were “down on expectations” on Sunday.
“The challenge we face with a competition schedule that is geared to support global TV viewership is that some finals are not starting until the late evening,” the statement added. “This impacts on the number of spectators remaining until the end of the session.”
The organising committee is anticipating stronger crowds for middle-distance races and also pointed to the boycott on Qatar by neighbouring Gulf nations as a difficulty it has had to contend with.
The committee said: “Our vision was for a first world championships in the Middle East. An IAAF World Athletics Championships that would welcome the world and connect to new fans. Despite facing unique challenges as hosts, in terms of the political (boycott), that ambition remains.”
Prior to the event starting, organisers were forced to deny that migrant workers and children would be used to fill empty seats after sources reportedly told the Guardian newspaper that it looked highly likely that large numbers of free tickets will be given away and groups would be bussed in by organisers.
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