Jakarta: The head of Asia’s athletics governing body said he hopes the political crisis gripping the Gulf region will be resolved before next year’s Doha world championships, telling AFP the competition could be a chance for unity.
Qatar’s Dahlan Al-Hamad was speaking at the Asian Games amid concerns over countries potentially boycotting the competition in the oil-rich state next September.
“We hope that things will pass before we embrace the 2019 world championship,” the head of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) told AFP in Jakarta.
“Qatar said since the beginning of the crisis that everyone is most welcome.”
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, along with Egypt, cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, which it denies.
The countries imposed punitive measures including preventing Qatar Airways from using its airspace, and closing Qatar’s only land border, with Saudi Arabia.
Qatar claims the Saudi-led countries are seeking regime change in Doha.
Hamad’s comments come after world athletics chief Sebastian Coe dismissed concerns over a boycott, saying he expected all the national athletics federations to take part in the competition beginning on September 28, 2019.
“We, as the organising committee, have no restrictions, and Qatar is open to all,” said Hamad, adding that it was “very important not to mix politics with sports”.
“Sports is the unifying activity that brings together the world despite their political and economic matters … We hope that sport will not enter the political arena.”
Other concerns plaguing the build-up to the championships include the stifling heat and humidity athletes will be forced to contend with during the nine-day event.
Track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, has made a number of changes to the championship’s timetable including a midnight marathon and scrapping morning sessions.