London has today been announced as the host of the 2017 Athletics World Championships after a council vote in Monaco. The capital was selected ahead of Doha in a two-horse race as athletics big wigs from around the world met in the principality.
On the face of it this may seem like a no-brainer, but the IAAF council had to weigh up benefits from both bids to come to their eventual outcome. After the failed World Cup bid where England sent in the three Lions of David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham it was a slightly lower key line-up this time round. Lord Coe and Boris Johnson spearheaded London’s attack and it proved to be a successful partnership.
The members voted in favour of London as it received 16 votes compared to Doha’s 10. Although, in reality the decision was closer than that after both parties delivered flawless presentations. It is a real vindication for London who came up against a very commercially attractive bid in the form of Doha who promised a Championships budget of £150million. On top of this they said they would deliver a lucrative new sponsor to the IAAF for around £18million – this must have turned the heads of the decision makers in such an economically challenging time. Add into this the opportunity to target a different and potentially high net worth audience and the IAAF must have been salivating as Sepp Blatter and his cronies were last year. However, the Doha bid was not without its disadvantages. A great deal has already been made about the heat during the World Cup in Qatar and this fear was multiplied for the athletes, particularly the long distance runners.
The London bid focused its attention on its Olympic legacy programme and with the reputation of Olympic Park Legacy Company hanging by a thread defeat would have been a disaster. It could not offer anywhere near the overall budget of the Doha bid, but in a typical display of British stubbornness it surprisingly matched the Qatari’s whopping £5million prize fund. Existing infrastructure and the positive impact of a western Championships on attracting sponsors certainly played into English hands. The already engaged target audience in the UK and Europe must also have swayed the votes as filling stadia will not prove an issue as has been proven by the insatiable demand for tickets for the 2012 London Olympics.
In summary, the IAAF members were given the choice between the legacy, reliability and efficiency of the London bid or the wildcard but lucrative bid from Doha. In the modern day it is refreshing to see that money does not always buy love and the Qatari’s will have to make do with just the 2022 World Cup, while London bathes in athletics euphoria for the next five years.
by Oliver Bethell