MONACO (Reuters) - Qatar’s emergence as a global sporting hub gained further clout when Doha was chosen as host city for the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships on Tuesday.
The fast-growing city alongside the Arabian Gulf will become the first from the Middle East to stage the blue riband event.
Overlooked for the 2017 championships in favor of London, the Qatari capital was selected ahead of rival bids from 1992 Olympic hosts Barcelona and the American city of Eugene, often referred to as Track Town.
Doha earned 12 votes to Eugene’s nine and Barcelona’s six in the initial secret ballot of the IAAF Council before winning 15-12 over Eugene in the second vote.
It is a timely boost for Qatar which has been mired in the controversy surrounding world soccer governing body FIFA’s decision to award the desert nation the 2022 World Cup.
The process by which it was chosen has come under intense scrutiny and FIFA is under pressure to make public a report of it’s own investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Russia won the right to stage the 2018 version.
Former U.S. attorney Michael Garcia, hired by FIFA to investigate the bids both World Cups, said his report had been misinterpreted in a boiled down version and there have been calls for FIFA to publish his findings in full.
However, IAAF vice president Dahlan Al-Hamad and head of the Doha 2019 bid, said the choice of the city was a “great opportunity” to take athletics to new regions.
“The World Championships for us will be a unique one,” he told a news conference in Monte Carlo’s Fairmont Hotel.
“We will organize it to a high level and these championships will expand the horizons of the IAAF.”
The 17th World Championships will take place at the newly-modernized Khalifa Stadium in early October, later than usual, to spare competitors from the worst of the searing desert heat.
Temperatures in Doha at that time of year are typically about 35 degrees Celsius during the morning and 30 degrees in the evenings, no more stifling than at previous world championship venues like Tokyo and Seville.
Long-serving IAAF president Lamine Diack said the three candidates had been the best he had seen.
“I‘m sure that in Doha we will have a wonderful edition of the world championships,” he said.
“I‘m convinced they are committed to sport and they are doing the right things and it will continue like that.”
Doha hosted the men-only Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix in 1997 and that meeting has since been incorporated into the Diamond League. It also hosted the 2010 World Indoors Championships.
Qatar Olympic Committee Secretary General and chairman of the Doha bid Sheikh Saoud Abdulrahman al-Thani praised the “fair play” in the bidding process.
”We would like to thank the IAAF for the trust they have placed in us and guarantee to deliver on our commitments,“ he said. ”We extend our warmest appreciation to the teams from Eugene and Barcelona for their friendship, fair play and respect throughout the bidding process.
“At this time of dramatic sporting growth in Qatar, hosting Doha 2019 marks a new era in our sporting achievements.”
Eugene was hoping to become the first American city to host the event which began in 1983 in Helsinki.
Portland, Oregon, will stage the 2016 World Indoor Championships while Eugene annually hosts a Diamond League meet.
“We would like to offer our heartfelt congratulations to Doha and our sincere thanks to the IAAF,” Eugene bid leader Vin Lananna said in a statement.
”We made a bold attempt with an audacious vision for this event and we will continue to partner with USA Track & Field in attracting other major events to the U.S.
Barcelona was attempting to become the second Spanish city to host the event, following Seville in 1999.
The 2015 world championships will be in Beijing.
Writing by Martyn Herman in London; editing by Justin Palmer