Days, Dunes and Doha

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September 30th 2019
Published: September 30th 2019
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On Saturday morning, I slept in a little and then we spent a quiet day, mostly in our room. We went down to the Al Hubara restaurant for lunch and had a two for one meal, as Fletcher had been given a voucher for the place when he joined the Marriot Rewards club. The lunch was fine, albeit only accompanied by water, as there are many great salads, seafood and various meats and eastern style dishes to choose from. We went out to the track on the 3-30pm bus. This time, the driver knew where to drop us so it was not far to walk into the VIP area. The night's program was interesting and varied.

The qualifying rounds of the Men's Discus saw Matt Denny from Australia qualify in 3rd place with a great throw of over 65 metres. That puts him in contention for a medal on Monday night.The men's pole vault qualifying was fascinating to watch with only 8 over the automatic qualifying mark of 5-75 and Rene Villanie, the world record holder missing out. Sam Kendricks from the US looks the favourite for this but it is wide open.In the final of the Men's Long Jump, Gayle from Jamaica pulled out a huge 8-69m jump giving him the gold. We watched the semifinals of the men's 100 and the mixed 4x400m relay. This is the first time this has been included and is an interesting new twist as the teams can decide in which order to run their two men and two women, so there can be men v women. The USA broke the World Record here. The Women's 10,000 metres was an intriguing race with a young girl from the Netherlands, Hassan, overcoming the Kenyans and Ethiopians to take out the title. We learnt later from Sylvia, the Dutch Council member that this girl had arrived in the Netherlands at age 15 as a refugee.

Then all was set for the final of the Men's 100. This was preceeded by a sound and light show with the names of the athletes lit up along the track as they were introduced and the whole track illuminated. Quite a spectacle. This was won by Christian Coleman from the US with Justin Gatlin second. Coleman was impressive but there is a taint hanging over him as he had missed three drug tests in the last year supposedly due to "forgetfulness". We got onto one of the first buses to leave but then it was a slow journey back to the hotel as we had to drop others at various places along the way. We headed down to the Irish Harp and there it was happy hour so we had a couple of pints of beer while watching the start of the 50k walk on the TV. We retired well before the end of that.

On Sunday morning we were down to breakfast early to meet up with Yvonne and John who had organised an excursion to the outer areas of Doha to go "dune-bashing". There were ten of us altogether, in two 4 wheel drives. Yvonne, John, Geoff and Sally Pearson and her husband were in one car, while Trevor Spittle and two young lads from Guam, Michael and Derek were with us.We drove from Doha for about 45 minutes, past Meseiad, several oil and gas refineries and headed for Sealine Beach.The landscape was unremittingly grey, with sand covering everything and much air pollution to be seen. We stopped at the headquarters of the tour company while the drivers let air from the tyres so they could grip the sand better. Our driver was a weatheerd, older man in his white kaftan and red and white headdress. With his prayer beads in his hand and one eye on the road , he was well experienced and we sped out onto the sand dunes. These are large and vast, along the shoreline and encompassing some flat inlets where the water obviously intrudes during high tide. Then it was off on a wild ride, up and down dunes, swerving this way and that, almost sideways over the brows of some steep hills. What an experience, but what fun. We stopped a couple of times. Once on the brow of a steep dune overlooking the sea where we had a group photo and then another down by the shore where I paddled in the warm water of the Arabian Gulf. We could see the ouline of Saudi Arabia across the water. A pause for refreshment and camel rides was at the Qatar International Adventures Desert Camp. Here we were given vouchers for one soft drink and one bottle of water and relaxed in a large airconditioned tent. Then we wandered down where three very bored looking camels were tethered. Yvonne and Sally went for the first ride with Yvonne clinging on gamely as she looked like falling off any minute. Much hilarity ensued. Then Derek and Michael had a turn while the rest of us watched amusedly. Then it was back to the cars and more dune-surfing before returning to the air pump station for tyre refill and then back to the city. A fun morning and at about $110 dollars each, a fair price to pay for some great entertainment and a chance to see more of the countryside.

There was only a short program scheduled for Sunday night so we took the 6-30pm bus to the stadium. This was a mistake!! The traffic was horrendous and it took us an hour and 10 minutes to crawl there. We availed ourselves of the food on offer in the VIP lounge and then watched the short program of events. The highlight was the women's Pole Vault final. I watched this closely and it was an intriguing competition. The height started at 4-50 before then jumping to 4-70. This sorted a few out but there was still a large group jumping at 4-80. Two of them, Sandi Moore from the US and Sidirova from Russia, but competing as an Authorised Neutral Athlete, did not miss a height and were locked in first place. At 4-80 we applauded the effort of Angelica Bengtsson from Sweden who snapped a pole in her third attempt and then came back, on a borrowed pole, to clear it and set a National Record. After 4-85 only three athletes remained but the defending champion, Stefanidi from Greece could not clear and though she passed to 4-90 for her third attempt had to settle for the bronze. At 4-90 both Moore and Sidorova cleared on their first attempt but it was Sidorova who triumphed, clearing 4-95 on her third attempt when Moore had failed three times. An excellent competition.

We watched the US win the 4x400 mixed relay when Poland's gamble of using a woman on the last leg failed and then it was a thirty minute wait for the women's 100 final. The Triple Jump was on but that didn't grab the attention. It was poor programming. They had the same sound and light show for the women and the race was won convincingly by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price. We exited quickly and were on the first bus out but the driver got lost and we eventually made it back to the Sheraton nearly 50 minutes later. Again we headed to the bar where we watched the women's 20k walk on the TV there while having a couple of beers. This event was dominated by the Chinese who took all three medals. Our Australian girl, though, Jemima Montag came in a credible 10th. We headed for bed at 1-30am.

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