Interview: Dahlan Al Hamad
Where does Qatar stand in terms of planning and preparation for the 2019 World Athletics Championships? What facilities are required for the event?
DAHLAN AL HAMAD: We won the bid to host the 2019 Athletics World Championships in November 2014 in Monaco, and planning is now under way for the event. The bid included plans for an enormous Athletics Village. Located in Msheireb, it will be the first in IAAF history to combine the hosting of athletes, media, the IAAF council and the officials coming to Doha for the event. The concept was to integrate the athletes with the Msheireb Downtown project, which we partnered with Msheireb Properties to arrange. Traditionally, the village for athletes is closed to the public, but this concept will build the village in the city, so the public can see the athletes in the mall, in coffee shops and have the opportunity to interact with them in the vicinity of Msheireb.
With the exception of the Athletics Village, we will use existing infrastructure in the country for the event. The Khalifa Stadium is being renovated and will be used for both the 2019 Athletics Championships and the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, the Doha metro lines that run from the airport to Msheireb and onward to the Khalifa Stadium are being prioritised so the athletes and officials in the Athletics Village can use them. Furthermore, we are currently in the process of establishing a committee for the championships, which will be tasked with developing a budget and allocating spending from our side for the event.
How did Doha’s World Championships bid help to set it apart from other potential host cities?
AL HAMAD: Doha was competing against Barcelona, Spain and Eugene, Oregon to be the host city for the World Championships – both of which are unique in their own right. One of the main factors was that Doha had a government-approved budget to host the event. The bid file also emphasised the connectivity in Doha and the availability of infrastructure to host the event. In particular, the accommodation being provided is some of the best in the world, with the athletes to be housed in the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Msheireb.
The combination of the renovated Khalifa Stadium, the Athletics Village in Msheireb and the Qatar National Convention Centre, which will host seminars and conferences for the event, really impressed visiting officials.
Looking at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow, what are your projections for the total number of visitors and their demographics?
AL HAMAD: We expect to attract more than the approximately 400,000 spectators that attended the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. In light of the recent success of the 2015 World Handball Championships hosted in Doha, we are working with the Qatar Olympic Committee and will follow a similar strategy for 2019 as was used by the 2015 World Handball Championships. Overall we are expecting large turnout from the regional market, particularly from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, though we are also targeting European visitors, with similar packages for the nine-day event as were offered during the Handball Championships.
What is Qatar’s thought-process on ensuring a positive lasting legacy for the event?
AL HAMAD: We have given this a lot of thought and factored it into our bid strategy. As part of winning the hosting bid, Qatar has committed to build 10 tracks for athletics around the world where they are needed. Given Qatar’s successful development of sporting infrastructure in the state, it is part of our commitment to continue supporting and developing the field of athletics worldwide, not to mention the fact that hosting the event is a legacy for Qatar in itself. Indeed, every international sporting event that we host has created a lasting legacy in the country, as can be seen in projects like the Aspire Zone, built to host the 2006 Asian Games; Hamad Medical City, which was converted after the 2006 Asian Games; or the sporting complexes that were constructed for the 2015 Handball Championships.
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