IAAF shakes up 2019 Doha worlds schedule

Doha (AFP) –


The IAAF said Friday it will scrap morning sessions at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, as well as introducing a mixed 4x400 metres relay and a midnight marathon.

Race walking events will also start at 11.30pm local time as part of a big shake-up of the traditional scheduling for the championships, which will run from September 28-October 6 when temperatures in the Gulf state remain very hot and humid.

The decathlon and heptathlon will be run concurrently -- a first for the world championships -- with their respective event-ending 1500m and 800m finals both starting after midnight.

"It's new and exciting," IAAF president Sebastian Coe said in the Qatari capital, although local organisers only expect 10,000 foreigners to make the trip for the nine-day event.

"We can learn and adapt for Tokyo 2020 (Olympics) and beyond," Coe said, speaking ahead of Friday's season-opening Diamond League meeting.

In the world championships, split evening sessions, with a one-hour break, will replace the previous daily format of straight morning-evening sessions.

Sheikha Asma al-Thani, marketing and communications director of the organising committee, said earlier that althouigh only 10,000 foreign visitors were expected to attend the event, organisers were seeking innovative ways to attract local spectators.

Coe said the organisers "are going to do a lot of marketing around it (with) Qatar Airways and hotels. And I've long believed ... that you turn it into a holiday and a destination and you make sure that you get competitive packages."

Coe added: "It is a very good hub to get in and out of. I talked to a lot of Australians in the Gold Coast who were saying actually as a World Championships go, it's probably one of the easier ones for Oceania, Australia to go to."

- Engage new fans -

Dahlan al-Hamad, head of the organising committee and vice-president of the IAAF, said he hoped innovations to the timetable would draw a larger local crowd to the Khalifa Stadium than has previously been evident.

"It is our ambition to organise an innovative, creative and exciting event that inspires and engages new fans, new athletes and new audiences and maximises the full potential of our region's first-ever IAAF World Championships," Hamad said.

"These will enable us to showcase the sport like never seen before, capturing the attention of young people in Qatar and around the world and connecting them to the contagious excitement of athletics."

Coe also said he was being kept fully informed of the ongoing 11-month political crisis gripping the Gulf.

A group of Saudi-led countries have broken all ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and seeking closer ties with Iran, while Qatar claims the Saudi-led countries are seeking regime change in Doha.

"I've monitored this very closely," said Coe.

"I have good conversations that permanently take place in the region and I have a council that monitors it as well with their regional presidents, so we keep watching closely."