Behind the Fastest Woman on Earth, Empty Seats

IAAF catching flak for turnout at track world championships in Doha
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2019 2:40 PM CDT
Behind the Fastest Woman on Earth, Empty Seats
Empty seats before the the women's 100 meter final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019.   (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The women's 100-meter final is called "one of the marquee events" of the world track championships taking place right now in Doha, Qatar, per the AP. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took gold in the event Sunday night, making her the fastest woman on Earth. At 32, she's the oldest woman and first mom to win the world title in this race, which she finished in 10.71 seconds, a mere 0.01 seconds slower than her all-time best, People reports. But few saw her do so. Though Khalifa International Stadium, which can hold 40,000, per the AP, the Guardian reports "observers reckoned there were no more than 1,000 people still in attendance [after that race], and many of them were journalists tapping away to deadline." Sport's world governing body, the IAAF, is getting plenty of grief over that fact.

It wasn't just that event that was poorly attended: The championship's first three days were observed by anemic crowds, bringing scrutiny once more to the IAAF's decision to opt for Qatar over the other contenders: Eugene, Oregon, and Barcelona, reports the BBC. (The Guardian notes Qatar pledged to build 10 other tracks around the globe just prior to the 2014 vote.) Qatar doesn't have a major track and field fan base, and the heat is stifling, so much so that the women's marathon was held at midnight—though organizers counter a schedule designed to be favorable for a Western TV audience has made for late-night events that have hurt their appeal. One particularly biting take came from Eurosport, which holds the Olympic TV rights in Europe. "The Doha crowd roars with approval," it tweeted above a gif of tumbleweed. (More Doha stories.)

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