With the Asian Athletics Championships just around the corner, Asian Athletics Association president and local organising committee chairman Dahlan al-Hamad said the focus is on setting the benchmark for future organisers and ensuring that all systems are in place for a successful World Championships later in the year.
The 23rd edition of the Asian event will be held April 21-24 at the state-of-the-art Khalifa International Stadium, and also serves as a test event for the IAAF Athletics World Championships Doha 2019, which is set to be held in September at the same venue.
Over four days, more than 700 elite athletes from across Asia will vie for 186 medals in 21 events for men and women each, with a mixed relay event that will makes its debut at the championships.
“The main focus is that this is a test event for the World Championships, and we need to have a very high standard of organisation, to present it to the IAAF in a good way and also to set up a format and scale for the future organisers to match,” al-Hamad said at a press conference at the Qatar Olympic Committee headquarters yesterday.
The press conference was also attended by Championships vice-president and director general Fahad Ebrahim Jumaa, Venues Committee director Salah al-Saadi, Planning and Operation Committee director Eman al-Emadi and Marketing and Communication committee head Sheikh Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Thani.
Al-Hamad, who is also the IAAF vice-president, cited Qatar’s long history of successfully organising many international sporting events and was confident of using that “expertise to host an ideal and exceptional tournament that will be remembered by Asian athletes and fans”.
One of the novelties at the IAAF Worlds is going to be the night marathon around a circuit planned on the Doha Corniche. However, the Asian championships will not have any road races, even though al-Hamad said that “we are planning in the future to include the road races”.
The four-day tournament takes place at Khalifa International Stadium where innovative and environment-friendly cooling technology has been successfully operating, ensuring optimal conditions for athletes and fans alike.
Given the effects of breeze and wind on performances of track and field athletes, al-Saadi said, “The technical delegates will be advising us of their requirements two days before the championships. The cooling systems will be used depending on their assessment and requirement.”
The organisers are looking forward to hosting a large number of fans at the the venue, which is also a Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium.
“We have a large Asian population in Qatar. Even if a fraction of those people turn up to watch the championships, we will have a full house,” al-Hamad said.
“We are doing everything from contacting the embassies to getting in touch with the schools. We are looking to present some of the top Asian athletes to these schools so that they can encourage the kids to take up a sport and set a goal for the future. If the kids interact with their heroes and champions in schools, and also watch the competition, it will inspire them for the future.”
Team Qatar will be represented by 29 athletes, including World Champion high jumper Mutaz Barshim, 400m hurdles Asian Games gold medallist Abderrahman Samba, and 400m 2017 World Championships bronze medallist and Asian Games gold medallist Abdalelah Haroun.
While Qatar had missed out on a gold, finishing with six silver medals and a bronze, in the 22nd edition of the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, India, this time round, the squad will be looking to excel in front of home fans.
“Qatari team will have good results. But we must also remember that this is a crucial year because this is the year of the World Championships. You cannot underestimate any nation in Asia, because everyone is looking to prepare their athletes. But Insha Allah we shall see good results from Qatari athletes,” al-Hamad said.
For Barshim, the championships will serve as a comeback event, having been out of action since he suffered an ankle injury while attempting for a world record height in Hungary in July last year.
“Barshim, Alhamdullilah, he has recovered. He is on the track now, and we have included him in the list,” al-Hamad said. “But we want to get the final ok from his coach. It is most important for him to be fit, compete here, in the Diamond Leagues and also the world championships. The goal is the world championships.”
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