The IAAF are “working really hard” to address the disappointing attendances at the Athletics World Championships in Doha, its chief executive Jon Ridgeon said.
There were 13,288 supporters watching Friday's session at the Khalifa International Stadium, but those numbers dropped on the weekend, with Sunday’s 100m women’s final playing out over a backdrop of empty seats.
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Former British sprinter Darren Campbell is among the athletes to have criticised the IAAF’s decision to award Doha the championships.
"The sport is not evolving and it does not help when images across the world show empty stadiums," said Campbell. "I guess people watching it go 'that sport's dying' and switch over.
What athletics needs now is for the IAAF to really think about what they are doing and, if it means the World Championships unfortunately have to go to countries that will sell out, then that's the way it has to be.
World champion decathlete Kevin Mayer added: "We can all see it's a disaster, there is no-one in the stands, and the heat has not been adapted at all. We have to leave reason aside and more concentrate on the passion, because if not I would have boycotted these championships.
Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce finishes ahead of Britain's Dina Asher-Smith in the Women's 100m final at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on September 29
Image credit: Getty Images
"We haven't really prioritised athletes when organising the championships here. It makes it difficult."
IAAF CEO Ridgeon stressed that work is being done to generate bigger crowds, but added that “big finals” have come late on when the audience have the following working day in mind.
"We want bigger crowds," said Ridgeon of the Khalifa International Stadium, which holds 40,000 but was reduced to around 21,000 for the event.
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Rest assured we are working really hard with the local organising committee to generate bigger crowds."
He added to the BBC: "I think one of the biggest challenges has been, if you look back to a couple of days ago, we did actually fill 65-70% of those available seats, but by the time the big finals came along later in the evening, actually a lot of the audience had gone home because the working day starts early the next morning.
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"When you judge a championship, clearly the size of the audience and the atmosphere created is one really important element, but there are other elements as well, and I think we can all agree the athletics has been stunning."
Ridgeon’s stance reiterates that of local organisers, who on Monday blamed late start times and a blockade of the country by other nations in the region.
"You must remember when this event was awarded six or seven years ago, it was always positioned as a celebration of athletics within the Middle East," Ridgeon said.
"Clearly, geo-politics has shifted since, there is a blockade of this country from all the neighbouring surrounding countries and that has impacted.
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“We would like more people here, but you have to accept this is a small country. There are some 700,000 residents here in Doha, and it was always positioned as a celebration of the whole region.
"There would be an awful lot more people here if the blockade was not in place. The blockade is one of the factors.
I'm not blaming it, but it's one of the factors, but you have to understand the political challenges this country faces right now, which was never envisaged when this meeting was awarded."