Qatar to host 2019 World Athletics Championships despite anti-gay laws

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Qatar has been awarded the 2019 World Athletics Championships despite controversies around its anti-gay laws and human rights abuses linked to the 2022 World Cup.

following a vote by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in Monaco today, Qatar has been named as the host of the 2019 competition.

Doha, the country’s capital city, will host the championships.

“I am sure that in Doha we will have a wonderful edition of the World Championships,” commented IAAF President Lamine Diack.

“It’s a privilege and honour to have the trust of the IAAF,” said Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the leader of the Doha bid.

“I am very delighted that these Championships are going to be for the first time in the region. I’m confident that with the help of the IAAF we will organiser one of the best World Championships,” he added.

Qatar – a country notorious for its anti-gay laws – was last week cleared to host the 2022 World Cup by football’s governing body.

An ethics committee investigation by FIFA into the bidding process effectively confirmed Qatar and Russia as 2022 and 2018 hosts respectively, stating any rule breaches by the bidding countries were “of very limited scope”.

Qatar faced a number of corruption claims surrounding its bid, but the Gulf state is now in the clear.

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in the country with sentences of up to five years imprisonment.

Physical punishments can also include lashing and potentially death for those who are Muslim.

LGBT rights groups in 2010 said they were “deeply concerned” by FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

FIFA last year announced its intention to put pressure on Qatar to relax its anti-gay legislation ahead of hosting the 2022 event.

The head of the women’s England football team Casey Stoney said she would not attend Qatar because gay people are not welcome there.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, seen by many LGBT advocates as an obstacle when it comes to challenging homophobia and transphobia in football, was forced to apologise in 2010 for saying that gay football fans should avoid having sex in Qatar – in order to get round the country’s anti-gay laws.

Dutch former MP Richard de Mos proposed in 2012 that the Dutch football team play in pink, instead of the country’s national colour, orange, in order to highlight the LGBT rights situation in Qatar.

As well as temperatures, and the country’s anti-gay laws, Qatar has also been questioned on its use of migrant workers to construct stadiums for the event.