By Nick Butler at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha

Dahlan Al Hamad (third right) pictured during the opening day of the IAAF Evaluation Commission visit today ©Doha 2019Qatar Athletics Federation President Dahlan Al Hamad claimed it is the "right time" for Doha to host the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships.

The Qatari capital was narrowly defeated by London for the 2017 event, but is widely seen as the favourite for 2019 against rival bids from Barcelona and Eugene

Speaking on the opening day of the IAAF Evaluation Commission inspection here, Al Hamad, President of the Asian Athletics Association, outlined Qatar's vast experience in hosting major international athletics events.

"We have started organising competitions for the IAAF since 1997, and, after holding Grand Prix's and Diamond League meetings and then the World Indoor Championships [in 2010], we believe it is time for us to organise the largest IAAF event," he said.

"We are ready and we are passionate.

"We think the World Champs will fit with the IAAF plan of globalisation, and it will fit with the IAAF vision to boost athletics in the Middle East.

"For 2017,we respected the decision, and there were definitely some shortages we learned from and this time our file is more complete."

The official hailed an innovative Athletes' Village, where "all the athletes can stay in one area and mingle with the local population", as well as improved transportation and communication networks, as specifics areas where they have improved.

The proposed dates of the Championships, however, could remain a stumbling block as they would be held at the end of September and beginning of October in a bid to avoid the worst of the heat in the Gulf state. 

The average high in Doha in August, the month the Championships are normally held in, is 45 degrees.

Al Hamad described the biennial event as an opportunity to unite the Middle East at a time of conflict and discord.

"There is a lot of tension in the Middle East, and sport is the right vehicle to help the people get together," he said.

"We believe that, through organising the World Championship, we will give a chance for all the people in the area to be involved."

The IAAF Evaluation Commission discuss the Doha 2019 Bid with Qatari officials ©Doha 2019The IAAF Evaluation Commission discuss the Doha 2019 Bid with Qatari officials
©Doha 2019

Al Hamad was speaking at the end of a gruelling first day of inspections by the Evaluation Commission, chaired by IAAF vice-president, Sebastian Coe.

With Al Hamad joined by other key figures, including Qatar Olympic Committee secretary general Sheikh Saoud Abdulrahman al-Thani, the day consisted of extensive presentations by the Bid Committee and its partners.

These included the Aspire Zone at Khalifa International Stadium, where the 2006 Asian Games, as well the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships took place.

The tour also included a visit to the Aspire Zone's centrepiece, the Khalifa International Stadium, the venue where the 2019 World Championships would be held, currently under renovation to make it the "most state-of-the-art purpose-built athletics stadium in the world".

At the warm-up area close-by, the Commission were greeted by members of the Qatar national athletics team, including reigning World Indoor and Asian Games high jump champion Mutaz Barshim and Russia's double European champion 110 metres hurdles gold medallist Sergey Shubenkov, one of a large international contingent of Bid Ambassadors. 

The IAAF Evaluation Commission and Qatari officials with local athletes, including World Indoor high jump champion Mutaz Barshim ©Doha 2019
The IAAF Evaluation Commission and Qatari officials with local athletes, including World Indoor high jump champion Mutaz Barshim ©Doha 2019

After concluding their tour of the Aspire Zone, the Commission headed to the Msheireb Enrichment Center to hear about the plans to revolutionise the traditional concept of an Athletes' Village by offering the first ever "Athletics City".

The single, brand new 35 hectare, mixed-use development, called Msheireb Downtown Doha, right at the heart of the city will be handed over in its entirety for the dedicated use of the 2019 Championships.

The quality of accommodation and the range of facilities available will be beyond anything ever experienced in a traditional Athletes' Village, it is claimed

The Commission, along with key members of the Doha 2019 Bid Committee, will continue touring the city tomorrow where they will visit the Qatar National Convention Centre, the location of the IAAF's Congress in 2019 should Doha be successful, and Souq Waqif, Doha's traditional shopping and meeting destination.

The two-day inspection follows recent visits to Barcelona and Eugene.

A final decision on which city will host the Championships is due to taken by the IAAF Council at its meeting in Monaco on November 18 following presentations from all three bidders.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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