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Middle East » Qatar » Doha
September 25th 2019
Published: September 26th 2019
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On Monday morning we were up very early as our plane to Doha left at 8am.This meant a 6am arrival at Heathrow so a 4-30am alarm. We had decided to accept an offer from the Concierge at our hotel for a car to take us to Heathrow. It would only cost about 5 pounds more than a taxi to Paddington and then the Heathrow Express and it would save a lot of hassle. The driver was early and we were ready. We sped off in the darkness and were very glad to be taken in comfort rather than struggle on and off trains.

Once at Terminal 4 it did not take long to check in and find the lounge. Then it was a pleasant wait for boarding and a 6 hour flight to Doha.We arrived here about 4pm local time. As we were heading to collect our bags, one of the local volunteers checked our names off his list and directed us to a separate passport control section. However, this did not prove to be helpful as there was only one officer and there were over twenty of us waiting. Eventually, two others came so after getting though the checkpoint we collected bags and exited to find the transport . After a short wait we were provided a car and, with an English woman, we were driven to the Sheraton Grand Hotel. The difference between inside the terminal and the outside temperature was massive. My glasses immediately fogged up when we went outside and there was a heaviness to the air. It was dark now, and we drove along the Corniche, only capturing glimpses of the interesting and different architecture for which this city is renowned. The small boats anchored close to the beach were strung with coloured lights and the skyscrapers were lit in various designs and colours.

We arrived at the Sheraton and checked in. This is one of the oldest hotels in Doha but is huge and shaped in a flat top pyramid style. It is full of marble and gold trimmings and lavish in its size and sumptuousness. We were given room 849 which has a balcony overlooking the harbour. The view is quite spectacular but during the day the pollution in the air is very evident. At night time, as it was when we first arrived, it was glowing. We set out to obtain our accreditation and ran into Geoff Gardner, President of Oceania. As we were chatting to him, along came Sebastian Coe who greeted us very warmly with a hug for both of us! Lovely to catch up with friends. Then it was off to get our accreditation cards, which did not take long. We met up with other friends, Yvonne Mullins and Bob Snow, and several of Fletcher's coaching colleagues such as Gunther Lange. Bob was having dinner in the Atrium so we joined him, but were appalled to find it was a place where smoking was allowed! We quickly moved and having perused the menu, decided instead to go to the Al Hubara restaurant where we can have the buffet for 150 riyals, about $A40. Nothing is inexpensive here, (and, of course, only water and soft drinks to accompany it). After a meal there it was early to bed as we had had a long day.

Tuesday morning, after a good breakfast spent chatting to Geoff, we checked out some more of the hotel. It is huge with the Convention Centre a massive room, ready for the Congress. Fletcher and Bob registered for the meeting and we saw Yvonne and John. Fletcher had a meeting at 12-45 but there was a delegate's lunch at 12, so we went to that. At our table was a gentleman from Bhutan, whom Fletcher had taught at one of the coaching courses in China. He was pleased to see him and we now have an open invitation to visit Bhutan with accommodation etc as his guest!! Just might take him up on that. Tim Rogers from Norfolk and Tony Green were also at our table. Fletcher headed off for his meeting which concerned the voting for positions on the Council. He is a scrutineer for that.The rest of the afternoon was to be taken up with meetings, so I returned to my room to read and relax.

That night was the Opening Dinner of the Congress. We went down to the foyer about 6-15 and chatted to Brian Roe while waiting for our transport to arrive. We were bussed to the Qatar Convention Centre for this, Again the coldness of the airconditioning inside and the heat, outside, was a great contrast. The Convention Centre was massive featuring a huge spider sculpture in the foyer which reminded me of the one in Bilbao. We were offered Mocktails for starters and then we entered a chose a central table with Bob. We were joined by the President of Zimbabwe Athletics and his wife, and a couple from Japan.The food was excellent and the jazz band who played as a backdrop were great. Speeches were made and awards given. I was really pleased that Josephine, our friend from Guam, was awarded a Veteran's pin and our old friend, Vuli, from Fiji received the Plaque of Merit. We left about 10pm to be returned to our hotel by bus and driving through the streets were went along the Corniche which is where the Marathon and Walks will take place, starting at midnight on various days. Now I am looking forward to the competition, but first there are two days of Congress where Fletcher will be occupied and I can just relax and do what I want, which will be to stay cool!!


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