Women's Sports: Denise Lewis questions IAAF’s decision to let Doha host World Championships

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Former Olympic heptathlon champion and British athletics legend Denise Lewis has questioned the IAAF for taking the World Championships to Qatar.

The Khalifa International Stadium has barely been half full during the opening weekend in Doha. 

Only 13,288 – including 1,484 guests – watched the first session, while Christian Coleman won the 100m on Saturday night in front of a sparse crowd.

The stadium has had its 40,000 capacity cut to around 24,000 for the Championships.

French decathlete world champion Kevin Mayer has criticised the decision to go to the Middle East with the heat also proving a problem in the road events.

Lewis, who won Olympic heptathlon gold in 2000, told BBC Sport: “I walked into the stadium tonight and looked around and said: ‘Is this the World Championships?’ We’ve waited to October to have stands like this – empty. Absolutely shocking.

“The athletes, they work so hard, they try to peak at the right time for an empty stadium. I just think it’s not right. Our governing body has let our athletes down massively.”

Adam Gemili, who reached Monday’s 200m semi-finals after winning his heat on Sunday, also questioned the decision to head to Qatar.

The British sprinter believes athletes also need to take the lead as they continue to look for a global draw after Usain Bolt’s retirement in 2017.

IAAF World Athletics Championships 2019 – Day Three – Khalifa International Stadium

He said: “It’s a weird World Champs. It’s very strange. It makes the British Champs look quite good!

“It feels weird not having Usain around and that’s massive. The onus is on all us athletes to make this champs even more exciting and there’s so many exciting events coming up.

“The women’s sprints maybe this year are even trumping the men’s. You do notice it.

“It’s not in our hands (where they go). We have no say. We get told to turn up and run and that’s what we do. It makes no difference to us. Hopefully there’s going to be an athlete representative.

“Goldie Sayers is up for it and hopefully she can get on that commission (IAAF Athletes’ Commission). She does great stuff and she’s passionate about track and field. If she gets selected things will start happening.”

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