The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced the decision after a head-to-head battle in which London won by 16 votes to 10 among the council members.
“We’ve worked really hard for this,” UK Athletics chief Ed Warner told Reuters. “I’m the optimist in our camp and I’ve been optimistic all along.”
London’s bid team, including 2012 Olympics chief Sebastian Coe, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, London Mayor Boris Johnson and former Olympic champion Denise Lewis, hugged each other after the decision was read out by IAAF president Lamine Diack.
“I’m more than thrilled,” said Sydney Games heptathlon champion Lewis. “For me this is all about athletics and the legacy we needed for our sport, for the Olympic stadium and its life beyond 2012. This is the right result.
“It has been a team effort. To win something like this you rely on everyone to do a great presentation, we worked hard… we knew London had great strength and I think those are the things that outweighed (Doha’s bid) in the end.”
Both bids had very different messages, with London urging the governing body to bring the showpiece back to its “traditional heartland and fan base” while Doha proclaimed the Middle East was a ripe new market that would help the IAAF grow track and field and safeguard the global appeal of the sport.
Oil-rich Qatar, which will host the 2022 soccer World Cup finals, offered the IAAF huge cash incentives totalling over $236 million as part of their bid.
It proposed underwriting an $80 million budget for the event, spending $120 million on construction, $29 million on guaranteeing sponsorship for all events leading up to 2017 and covering the $7.2 million prize fund for the championships.
London also offered to underwrite the prize money, while claiming it could raise $1 billion in sponsorship revenues.
Doha’s bid committee vice-chairman and IAAF vice-president Dahlan Al-Hamad congratulated the victorious London team.
“The main thing is that it was a fair battle, we wish them good luck and we believe that in sport there is winning and losing, but at the end of the day all of us are working for the good of the sport,” he told Reuters in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel where the IAAF Council held their vote.
“I think we did all we could.”
London and Doha were the only candidates. The 2013 championships will be staged in Moscow with Beijing hosting the showpiece event two years later.