By Sports Reporter/Doha
Following a nationwide competition, the winning design of the mascot for the Middle East’s first-ever IAAF World Athletics Championships was announced on Qatar’s annual National Sport Day (NSD).
Falah, an athletic falcon emblazoned in the Qatari flag’s maroon colour, was unveiled as the official mascot of the Doha 2019 World Athletics Championships at a specially-held ceremony at Qatar Foundation’s Awsaj Academy, attended by Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) President HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani, and a host of current and future Team Qatar athletes.
However, the most important guests of the event were the 490 children from a diverse range of local and international schools across Doha, who took part in a series of sports-related activities to celebrate the launch of Falah with the help of Team Qatar’s 400m runner Mariam Farid and a group of Aspire Academy’s promising athletes.
The selection of Falah followed a thorough and detailed process in which a total of 21 sketches were submitted to the Local Organising Committee (LOC) from residents of Qatar before a multi-staged voting process took place to decide the winner. Young ambassadors aged 8-16 were invited to vote for their favourite designs as Team Qatar’s hammer thrower Ashraf Amgad El Seify introduced and explained the sketches to them.
The young ambassadors’ vote narrowed the competing designs down to eight.
Explaining her vote for Falah, nine-year-old Maria from Park House School said, “I really like falcons, so I liked Falah a lot and he also looks like a superhero in his outfit which is what athletes are. So strong, powerful, and fast!”
Then Sheikh Joaan and LOC staff cut the selection down to a shortlist of three final designs. Falah, a character with close connections to the Qatari culture and heritage, was finally chosen as the eventual winner.
Speaking during the milestone event, LOC vice-chairman and director general and IAAF vice-president Dahlan al-Hamad said, “Falah represents the pursuit of excellence and symbolises the importance of always giving your very best in everything you do. These are the values and ambitions of the LOC, as we look to deliver an event that inspires a new generation and welcomes fans from all corners of the world.
“As a falcon Falah can fly freely into new horizons without boundaries and that is our approach shaping and supporting athletics of the future. We want to showcase this wonderful sport to new audiences and more people than ever before, and engage new young athletes across Qatar, the region and the world. That can only happen if people take flight and join us by descending into Doha for the first ever IAAF World Championships in the Middle East, so the spirit of flight and adventure really connected with us through Falah.”
Sheikha Asma al-Thani, Director of Marketing and Communications for Doha 2019, added: “A lot of the entries spoke about a falcon, and we at the World Championships thought that a falcon best represents both the culture of Qatar and the athletes. The falcons are fast, they are strong, they soar over everything, and that’s what athletes do. “We want the mascot to inspire a generation, the kids who were here, inspire them and get excited them about the championships as well.”
Filipino expat, Theodore Paul Manuel, created Falah. “Athletics for Falah is a way to show the world how to be a true athlete. He is competitive, courageous, and helpful like no other. He is loyal, funny, helps his friends and often shows off his athletic moves,” Manuel said.
Manuel, who has called Qatar home since 2010, received a financial prize of QR10,000 for his winning design, but the real prize will be watching Falah take centre stage at the World Championships in September, and inspire thousands of children as he visits schools and sports clubs across the country on his journey to the World Championships.
On a day filled with energy and action, the younger children, aged 5-8, took part in the IAAF’s Kids’ Athletics programme, one of the biggest grassroots development programmes in the world of sports.
Children, aged 9-13, took part in the Nanairo Ekiden, a relay race based on the traditional Japanese ekiden relay, with teams identified by t-shirts in the seven colours of the rainbow (nanairo), each representing one of the Olympic, Paralympic and IAAF values: Excellence, Courage, Inspiration/Commitment/Determination, Friendship, Respect, Integrity/Fair-Play and Equality/Inclusiveness.
The LOC also confirmed that the world’s greatest athletics collection is coming to Doha thanks to the IAAF Heritage World Athletics Championships Exhibition, 1983 to 2019. The exhibition will bring an unrivalled collection of athletics memorabilia, showcasing the sport’s greatest ever figures, including sprint kings Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt.
Doha will be welcoming 2000 athletes from 213 countries along with approximately 10,000 international guests, 30,000 spectators from outside Qatar and media representatives from around the world. The event will be broadcast to more than 200 countries reaching out to more than 7 million viewers. The competition will be held from September 27 to October 6 at Khalifa International Stadium.
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