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World Athletics Championships kick off in Doha with firework-filled opening ceremony

The World Athletics Championships got underway on Friday with a firework-filled opening ceremony in sweltering conditions in Doha.

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With temperatures exceeding 32 degrees, the tournament organisers turned the heat up further with a firework display at Corniche promenade to mark the start of the competition.

Despite the razzmatazz of the opening ceremony, local interest in the Championships has been muted and large swathes of empty seats could be seen as the games began inside the 40,000-seater Khalifa International Stadium.

The World Athletics Championships got underway in Doha on Friday with a grand fireworks display on Corniche Promenade

Despite the razzmatazz inside the Khalifa International Stadium, just 50,000 tickets have been sold for the 10-day event

Despite the razzmatazz inside the Khalifa International Stadium, just 50,000 tickets have been sold for the 10-day event

Despite the razzmatazz inside the Khalifa International Stadium, just 50,000 tickets have been sold for the 10-day event

IAAF president, Lord Coe, (left), took to the stage to deliver his opening address to mark the start of the Championships
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IAAF president, Lord Coe, (left), took to the stage to deliver his opening address to mark the start of the Championships

IAAF president, Lord Coe, (left), took to the stage to deliver his opening address to mark the start of the Championships

Falah the Falcon, the mascot for the 2019 World Championships, made a grand entrance during the opening ceremony

Falah the Falcon, the mascot for the 2019 World Championships, made a grand entrance during the opening ceremony

Falah the Falcon, the mascot for the 2019 World Championships, made a grand entrance during the opening ceremony

Event organisers have revealed they have sold just 50,000 tickets for the 10-day event, meaning empty seats are likely to be a feature throughout the competition.  

IAAF president, Lord Coe, who was reappointed for a second term on Wednesday after four years at the head of the organisation, took to the stage for his opening address.

Coe is tasked with the unenviable task of boosting interest in athletics among a younger audience and doing so without the pulling power of the man who has been the face of the sport for the past decade, Usain Bolt.

Large swathes of empty seats could be seen in the stadium as the Championships got underway and that is unlikely to change
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Large swathes of empty seats could be seen in the stadium as the Championships got underway and that is unlikely to change

Large swathes of empty seats could be seen in the stadium as the Championships got underway and that is unlikely to change

Athletes struggled to cope with heat, with Guinea-Bissau's Braima Dabo helping Jonathan Busby to the 5000m finish line

Athletes struggled to cope with heat, with Guinea-Bissau's Braima Dabo helping Jonathan Busby to the 5000m finish line

Athletes struggled to cope with heat, with Guinea-Bissau’s Braima Dabo helping Jonathan Busby to the 5000m finish line

16 athletes also dropped out of the women's marathon by the halfway stage, with some requiring urgent medical attention

16 athletes also dropped out of the women's marathon by the halfway stage, with some requiring urgent medical attention

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16 athletes also dropped out of the women’s marathon by the halfway stage, with some requiring urgent medical attention

With Bolt now retired, USA sprinter Christian Coleman has been tipped to replace him as the sport’s poster boy, but the controversy surrounding his missed drugs tests has left another cloud over athletics.

Still, Coleman was the star of the opening day in Doha as he recorded the fastest time in the men’s 100 metres heats, with a time of 9.98 seconds, making him the only man to run under 10 seconds on Friday. 

Justin Gatlin, who at 37 is the man most likely to run Coleman closest, navigated his way to the semi-finals, as did Britain’s Adam Gemilli and Zharnell Hughes, who impressed most among the Brits with a time of 10.08. 

Earlier in the day, USA sprinter Christian Coleman was the only man to run under 10 seconds in the men's 100 metres heats

Earlier in the day, USA sprinter Christian Coleman was the only man to run under 10 seconds in the men's 100 metres heats

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Earlier in the day, USA sprinter Christian Coleman was the only man to run under 10 seconds in the men’s 100 metres heats

Coleman was tipped to replace Usain Bolt as the face of athletics but missed drugs tests have tainted his reputation

Coleman was tipped to replace Usain Bolt as the face of athletics but missed drugs tests have tainted his reputation

Coleman was tipped to replace Usain Bolt as the face of athletics but missed drugs tests have tainted his reputation

Britain's Zharnell Hughes fared the best of the British sprinters with a time of 10.08 to qualify for the 100 metres semi-finals

Britain's Zharnell Hughes fared the best of the British sprinters with a time of 10.08 to qualify for the 100 metres semi-finals

Britain’s Zharnell Hughes fared the best of the British sprinters with a time of 10.08 to qualify for the 100 metres semi-finals

Britain's Lynsey Sharp was left devastated after her fourth place finish in the 800 metres saw her eliminated in the heats
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Britain's Lynsey Sharp was left devastated after her fourth place finish in the 800 metres saw her eliminated in the heats

Britain’s Lynsey Sharp was left devastated after her fourth place finish in the 800 metres saw her eliminated in the heats

Elsewhere, Briton Lynsey Sharp saw her Championships come to a premature end after running out of steam down the home straight and finishing fourth in her heat. 

The stifling conditions in Doha have prompted cause for concern among athletes and in the 5,000 metres Guinea-Bissau’s Braima Dabo had to help the struggling Jonathan Busby of Aruba complete the last 250 metres of the race.

The stadium has been fitted with air conditioning to relieve conditions but there is nothing organisers can do to lower the temperature for the women’s marathon, which started at midnight to ensure the coolest possible conditions.

Despite that move, 16 athletes had dropped out by the halfway stage through sheer exhaustion, with several needing stretchers to carry them off the 26 mile course.