Worries about competing in Qatar’s scorching temperatures have been overblown, said Norway’s double Olympic javelin champion Andreas Thorkildsen of the desert nation’s bid to stage the 2017 world championships.
Doha is vying with London to host track and field’s biennial showpiece event, with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voting to decide the 2017 hosts on Friday.
Qatar’s bid has faced the same questions over the fierce summer heat that followed the controversial decision by FIFA to award the 2022 soccer World Cup to the Gulf state.
Doha, which has mooted staging the event in September rather than the traditional August dates, plans to turn the Khalifa stadium in the capital into one of the “most technologically advanced stadiums in the world”, designing an air-cooling system to keep athletes and fans comfortable.
“Heat will not be a problem. I don’t think they would need the air con in the evening anyway, the wind picks up a little bit which creates a nice breeze … all the finals will be in the evening anyway,” Thorkildsen, who is an ambassador for the Doha bid, told Reuters.
“And for the morning sessions they’ll have the air con on … they will create pretty much optimal conditions for us anyway. They are going to do some interesting innovative things and really have thought about almost everything.
“I’ve loved competing there … had some good experiences, not only me but a lot of other athletes I’ve talked to about it. It’s really nice to compete there, especially as a javelin thrower.
“The javelin is such a high risk event … when its warmer there is less risk of injuries so that’s one of the reasons I love competing out there.”
Doha organisers plan to hold the marathon at night following the opening ceremony of the championships.
“I think it will be better than what we have seen at previous championships when they have run it in the morning,” Thorkildsen said.
“I remember in Osaka (in 2007), and some of the other places where the marathon has been held in the morning … the sun was out and people were passing out on the course.
“I don’t think you will see that in Doha when it’s on at night, under the lights and hopefully a nice breeze blowing. It will be perfect I think.”
Thorkildsen said taking the global showpiece to new markets and regions was vital in increasing the popularity of the sport.
“It will hopefully help develop our sport, both in the sense of trying to attract kids from that region into the sport and also help create more fans in the region,” he said.
“Choosing Doha would be good for the entire region, it will give athletics a great push.”
The 29-year-old said he still hoped to be competing and challenging for major titles in 2017.
The Norwegian failed to defend his world title in Daegu, South Korea when he had to settle for silver behind German Matthias de Zordo, ending what he said was a difficult season.
“I had injuries and some technical problems. It wasn’t terrible but I didn’t meet my goals of winning in Daegu and winning the Diamond League,” he said.
“It wasn’t perfect but I was ranked number one so I can’t complain too much.
“I know I can come back and hopefully have a better season next year and try to work to become better than I have ever been before.”