Beth Dobbin says poor crowds in Doha rob athletes of glory moments

Beth Dobbin looks up to the scoreboard after her third place in the women's 200 metre heats was enough to secure a semi-final place. Picture: Maja Hitij/Getty
Beth Dobbin looks up to the scoreboard after her third place in the women's 200 metre heats was enough to secure a semi-final place. Picture: Maja Hitij/Getty
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Beth Dobbin claimed the poor attendances at the world championships in Doha are stealing athletes of their moment in the sun.

The Scottish record holder, 25, moved into tonight’s 200 metres semi-finals by landing third place in yesterday’s opening heat in 23.14 secs.

But it was in front of the smallest crowds of the showpiece so far with event chiefs blaming the TV schedule and a Saudi-led political boycott of Qatar.

France’s decathlon world champion Kevin Mayer has called hosting the championships in Qatar a “disaster” while Denise Lewis, who won Olympic heptathlon gold in 2000, said the IAAF had let the athletes down.

And after watching team-mate Dina Asher-Smith take her lap of honour following her 100m silver in front of banks of empty seats, Dobbin – a finalist at last summer’s European Championships in Berlin – admitted it has removed some of the gloss.

“There’s not as many people as there should be,” she said. “Because it’s my first one, I’ve nothing to compare it to. If I’d been to London in 2017, I might be a bit deflated.

“But in Berlin, I didn’t look up into the crowds because I didn’t want to get nervous. Here, I didn’t want to look in case I was disappointed.

“I watched Dina’s victory lap and that was a bit heart-breaking because what she did was insane and there was no-one there. I feel like she was robbed of that moment. But that shouldn’t take away from how well the athletes are performing.”

Asher-Smith rebounded from her opening gambit to qualify quickest in 22.32 secs with Jodie Williams also 
making it safely through.

The event organisers have defended themselves over the poor crowds after just 13,288 people – including 1,484 guests – watched the first session on Friday and attendances declined in the following two days.

The Khalifa International Stadium holds 40,000 but the capacity has been cut to 21,000 for the championships and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) issued a statement which read: “After two solid days of attendance, (70 per cent on day one and 67 per cent on day two), numbers were down on our expectations on day three, under 50 per cent, which coincided with the start of the working week in Qatar.

“The challenge we face with a competition schedule that is geared to support global TV viewership is that some finals are not starting until the late evening.

“This impacts on the number of spectators remaining until the end of the session. We are confident with our additional communications, we will see more attendees for longer periods.”

The stadium was virtually empty when Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the 100m title on Sunday, with Asher-Smith second but the LOC defended the decision to hold the event in Qatar. The statement continued: “Our vision was for a first World Championships in the Middle East… that would welcome the world and connect to new fans.

“Despite facing unique challenges as hosts, in terms of the political blockade, that ambition remains. We have witnessed over 80 different nationalities in the stadium, the vast majority enjoying athletics for the first time.”