Days in Doha

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September 28th 2019
Published: September 28th 2019
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Wednesday and Thursday were Congress days. This is the four yearly meeting where new elections take place and issues are debated by delegates from all the member countries. Athletics has more member countries than any other sport in the world. Fletcher is an Area Delegate but this year was also asked to be a Scrutineer during the voting process. He was fully occupied on both days and started his mornings at 8am. While he was busy there was not much for me to do, especially here. In former years the local organising committee would offer day trips for "Accompanying Persons" as we are designated. We visited the Great Wall in Beijing and the Kremlin in Moscow, but here there was nothing planned. So I spent the two days resting in the hotel as it was far too hot to walk around outside and difficult to get into the city proper from our hotel. I occupied myself in various ways; a walk around the outside of the hotel to explore the gardens, (this was short because of the 40 degree heat), reading, writing this blog and playing games on Facebook etc. At night we reunited. On Wednesday night we went to the Em Sherif Restaurant, situated on the 15th floor. This is their top dining area, very Middle Eastern ( we didn't understand much of the menu!). However, we did have a lovely meal of tabbouleh, and skewers of chicken and lamb in a tomato sauce. We were able to have a bottle of wine, albeit the cheapest on the menu from Lebanon, which still cost about $100. On Thursday, we went to the Irish Bar, where we had had drinks also the night before and had fish and chips Irish style with a couple of glasses of Stella Artois. Excellent food and a convivial atmosphere.

One compliment I can make about this place is that the staff are so accommodating and friendly. While in my room I have had great conversations with those who come to clean. Sunil from Nepal is a lovely young man with a Masters degree, but this is the only work he can get. Sasuloo (I'm not sure of the spelling) is from Sri Lanka and we chatted about cricket and his living conditions here. All the workers seem to be from the subcontinent. The Sri Lankan bar staff changed the channel from soccer to the Rugby for us and enjoyed a chat about the hotel cricket team. The local Qatari all seem to laze around the hotel in their white kaftans and headpieces while the women are all in black with hijabs. I have only seen one or two burqas.

Friday was the first day of competition. In the morning there was a bus which took us into a shopping mall in the city to view the IAAF World Championships Heritage Exhibition. This was mounted to encourage the locals from a very non sporting nation to buy tickets for the Championships. On the bus there we met up with Carl-Olaf Homen and his wife, Riita. I had become friendly with her when we went on the tour to the Great Wall in 2015 and it was lovely seeing them again. Carl had been the chairman of the organising committee for the first world championships in Finland in 1983. We toured around the exhibition, interested in the variety of memorabilia on display. As it was Friday morning, and most people were at the mosque, the centre was fairly empty, but we found a pharmacy where I could get some voltaren for my aches and pains. Then we returned to the hotel and had lunch in the Atrium, a shared Grand Club Sandwich with heaps of chips.

The bus to the stadium left at 3-30pm. We drove to the other side of the city, through the ever present heavy traffic to arrive at the Khalifa Stadium about 4 pm. Then the confusion started. The bus driver first took us to the Torch. This is an amazing building, shaped as the name suggests as a flaming torch but it is a hotel.This was not the drop off spot, so he then drove right around the stadium and went to an entrance which the security guards said was only for athletes. The third choice was a drop off point for buses, but we soon discovered that the VIP entrance was hard to find. We embarked on an almighty trek, three quarters of the way around the stadium until we found an entrance that would take us through security and inside the fence. Then it was another epic hike until we found a way to the IAAF Lounge. What a shemozzle. By this time it was 4-50 pm and the competition had started. Hot and bothered we looked for a drink but the choice was water, carrot or watermelon juice! A cold water refreshed us and we found a seat outside to watch the proceedings.

The air conditioning does work! We sat in relative comfort. Morgan Mitchell qualified for the next round of the 800 metres but our other two athletes did not. Liz Parnova missed out in the Pole Vault as did our girls in the High Jump. Only Genevieve Gregson got though in the 3000m steeplechase and Stewart Mc Sweyn was our sole qualifier in the men's 5000, though McDonald and Tiernan were not far off. We watched the first round of the men's 100 and the qualifying in the men's Long and Triple Jumps where no Australians got through to the final. Just shows how tough competiton is in these events. The lowlight was the struggle of the athlete from Aruba in the first heat of the 5000 metres. He was stumbling and obviously distressed in his last lap and the other athlete from Guinea-Bisseau helped him by holding him up and steering him over the finish line. What was horrifying though was that no medical staff could be seen and though the heroics of the other athlete was loudly applauded the lack of official help was appalling.

The heats of the 400m hurdles for men was the last event so we decided to head for the buses. We had had some of the finger food on offer which was OK but not great. We found our way out to the right entrance so will know tomorrow where we should go. We hopped on a bus that was taking those invited to the Opening Ceremony to the Corniche but the driver promised to take us on to our hotel once they were delivered. He duly kept his word, so that once everyone else, bar us and two Swedish ladies disembarked, he dropped them at the Intercontinental and took us back to the Sheraton. We then went down to the Irish Bar where it was Ladies night. The bar was full but they found us a table and I was given vouchers for three free drinks . We asked and they changed the channel so we could watch the Opening Ceremony on TV and I enjoyed my glasses of wine, while Fletcher had a couple of Heineken. The Opening parade looked like a school show, very amateurish, but the fireworks were good. Then the women's Marathon started at one minute to midnight. This was run along the Corniche, the road that hugs the shores of the bay. It was still in the high 30s and humid so I pitied the athletes.We watched for a while but came up to bed about 1am.

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