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Katar Rad WM in Doha
Image: picture-alliance/Augenklick/Roth

Qatar: Hosting world championships at any cost

Stefan Nestler
October 11, 2016

Cycling's Road World Championships are being held in extreme heat, raising the question as to why Qatar was chosen to host this major sporting event. However, the country has a grand sporting plan in place.


It's hard to imagine anybody wanting to take part in a cycling race when the mercury rises to 38 degrees Celcius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

"After 15 minutes it was already overheated, from that point on it was simply torture," is how Germany's time-trial ace Tony Martin described conditions, after he and his team won gold in the team time trial, which kicked off this year's world championship this past weekend.

On the women's side, the almost unbearable heat led to a serious accident, after Anouska Koster of the Netherlands apparently succumbed to heat stroke. The 23-year-old appeared disorientated as she crashed into a fence along the side of the course, before flying over the handlebars. As Koster struggled to get back to her feet, she was bleeding from cuts to her face, which she sustained along with several bruises during the crash.

Several of Martin's Dutch teammates also complained about the unacceptable conditions.

"The heat, it's impossible, it's like being in a sauna," said Roxane Knetermann.

"Even my lungs hurt," added Chantal Blaak.

'Money makes the world go around'

Cycling's world governing body, the UCI, is now considering shortening the remaining races. Officials are debating whether to shorten Sunday's men's race from the planned 257.5 kilometers (160 miles) to just 100 kilometers.

Katar Rad WM in Doha Anouska Koster
Despiter her crash, Anouska Koster managed to complete the raceImage: picture-alliance/Augenklick/Roth

Apart from the heat, the riders have also been complaining about the lack of enthusiasm among the Qatari public for the event.

"It's a shame to stand on the podium and realize that there are more reporters than fans present," Tony Martin said. "We know why the world championships have come here. Money makes the world go around."

Bought fans

The oil-rich Gulf state has been successful in winning the right to hold world championships in a number of sports in recent years. In 2014, Qatar hosted the short-track swimming championships and one year later it hosted the men's world handball championship. The men's handballers also complained of a lack of enthusiasm among the crowds. It eventually became clear that the organizers had paid "fans" to attend the matches.

And Qatar is by no means done with its series of major international events, with the world gymnastics championships to be held there in 2018, the track-and-field worlds in 2019, and of course the World Cup in 2022.

International criticism

It seems that when the sheikhs wave the dollar bill around, top sporting officials go all weak at the knees and forget about any objections they might normally have had. However, there is plenty of international criticism of Qatar, including over alleged widespread corruption.

There are the allegations of human rights abuses, and laborers facing unacceptable working conditions. And then there is the heat, which led FIFA to move the 2022 World Cup, which is normally held in the summer, to the winter.

A Qatar Olympics?

In case you were wondering, there is a grand plan behind this drive to host all of these world championships.

 "The vision and the target is to host one of the Olympics, one day," Thani Al-Kuwari, the secretary general of the Qatar Olympic Committee recently said. The idea is that the facilities that have been built for the various world championships could one day be used to host the Olympics.

"All of these venues will be available, particularly after 2022, when 99 percent of the necessary arenas will be finished," Al-Kuwari said.

The country's capital, Doha, failed in its bid to host the 2020 Summer Games, but it is widely thought that Qatar will bid to host the 2028 Olympics. One thing is for certain; if this bid were to fail, it wouldn't be due to a lack of funds - and probably not due to the concerns of top international sporting officials either.

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