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Empty Stadium Does Little To Sell Qatar As A Prestige Sports Host

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Oil rich Qatar is punching above its weight in a bid to win recognition as a leading venue in world sport.

The World Athletic Championships have been playing out in front of near empty stadiums for more than a week.

TV screens have showed up bank upon bank of empty seating at these stay away games that are one of the jewels in the crown of athletics.

The stadium in Doha, the capital of the tiny Gulf State, was the centre piece in Qatar’s recent bid to host the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.

Football’s World Cup Finals are on the way in 2022 after a controversial bidding process that alleged corruption and bribery by the Gulf state’s team.

Outcast nation

The need to win prestige events is political as well as a sporting challenge for the government.

Qatar is an outcast among Gulf States and accused of supporting terrorism by neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. These nations have severed transport links by road, air and rail, making travel to and from Qatar difficult. They have also banned citizens from entering the country.

Gaining global recognition as a sporting venue is thumbing the nose to the rest of the Arab world which has yet to host such an occasion.

The Qatari Investment Bank, controlled by the royal family, also owns French soccer club Paris St Germain.

Negative signals

Michael Payne, former marketing director of the International Olympic Committee feels the meagre attendances at the Doha games will ward off potential sporting suitors for decades.

“The athletics had sent a very negative signal as to Doha’s ability to host any major event,” said Payne.

“In terms of the Olympics, I’d go straight back to the drawing board,” he said. “Clearly the first question is going to be ‘why would the hosting of our championship be any different’. It’s such a fundamental red line to cross.

“There is an issue of respect for the athletes. How do they feel having trained all their lives for this? Clearly something has gone very wrong. For an Olympics, expectation would probably be now that you would see one or other Middle East country coming forward before Qatar.”

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