LGBT athletes welcome in Qatar but must respect rules, say World Championships organisers
Last Updated: 28/10/19 4:55pm
LGBT athletes and supporters are welcome at the World Championships in Qatar but must respect the rules of the country, where homosexuality is illegal, organisers have said.
Lord Sebastian Coe, who was re-elected unopposed as president of the International Association of Athletics Federations on Wednesday, said LGBT athletes would feel comfortable competing in Doha when the Games begin on Friday.
"I'm also a great believer that sport shifts the political, cultural and social dial," he said.
"It's one of the great soft powers we have - and utilised properly can shine a spotlight on all sorts of issues that not even the media want to tackle."
Qatar Athletics Federation president Dahlan Al Hamad, who was sat alongside Coe, insisted the host nation will "comply with all international rules".
"We respect the privacy of the people, the rules of the United Nations and the whole world," he said.
"But when you go anywhere you have to respect the rules of the country."
'Shameful migrant worker abuse will cast shadow over games'
Many of the athletics events at Doha will be held in the Khalifa Stadium, which was built by migrant workers "who were ruthlessly and systematically exploited", according to Amnesty International.
"It's true the Qatari Government has announced labour reforms and we've welcomed these, but the fact is that migrant workers in Qatar are still largely at the mercy of unscrupulous employers," said Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs.
A 52-page report put to Coe and Al Hamad detailed how several hundred migrant workers employed by just three construction and cleaning companies were forced to return to their home countries penniless because of serious failings in recently-introduced dispute settlement schemes.
Coe said there was nothing in Doha to "shy away from" and that he hoped to work with organisations like Amnesty International to form a "powerful alliance".
"Sport is a really good opportunity to showcase and challenge some of those issues," he said. "When I visit sporting organisations and meet political leaders I do challenge them.
"No society is poorer for having sport enshrined in it. Athletics itself has changed all sorts of conventions."
Coe pours cold water on marathon heat concerns
Athletes' concerns over the temperatures they will have to compete in have been largely eased by the air-conditioned stadiums, which will regulate temperatures between 28-30 degrees celsius.
But the outdoor marathon events have had to be rescheduled to at midnight when temperatures are expected to be around 33 degrees celcius, but humidity could still be 70-80 per cent.
"We will have more water on the course than we've ever had in any marathon, more medical support and paramedics as well," said Coe. "We've moved it later into the course of the evening but yes it will be warm."
Coe said they will continue to review safeguards in place.