The IAAF Doha Diamond League track meet was held today at the Qatar Sports Club, and like most things Qatar
buys does, it's the biggest and the best. Air-conditioned training tracks, AlterG treadmills, pools, physical therapy centers, coaches — Qatar has spared no expense in facilitating and promoting track. For half their population.
Scottish mid-distance runner Eilish McColgan recently wrote about visiting her mum (who is also her coach) in Doha. She described feeling very much a person of interest as the only woman on the track at the spectacular Aspire Academy state-funded sports machine, for boys only.
"Initially, it's a little daunting walking out onto the track in front of everyone," she wrote, "watching your movements, step by step. But once I started my session and they realised I was an athlete, everyone was extremely friendly, clapping and encouraging me as I ran around."
She goes on to describe the facilities at Aspire:
"For young kids, aged 8-14, the facilities are of a world class standard — an athletics warm-up track, air-conditioned athletics stadium for competitions, indoor 200m track, indoor football pitches, swimming pools.. alongside altitude chambers, anti-gravity treadmills, physiotherapists, doctors – yet everything is barely used. Multi-million pound facilities, all for 40 or so young boys. It's unbelievable - money doesn't seem to be a factor."
And neither does gender equity. There are no separate but equal facilities for girls.
Although McColgan's report was short on details and long on diplomacy, she said:
"There is definitely an air of change within Doha, a shift towards equality, which is heartening to see. Young women are interested in taking part in sports and competing – they are just waiting to be given the opportunity."
The air of change she's referring to must be the four women that, for the first time, represented Qatar at the 2012 Olympics. The sprinter, Noor Al-Malki, competing in a head scarf, long sleeves and tights, pulled up with a hamstring issue about ten steps into her historic Olympic bid. Her Facebook page has not been updated since August 2012.
Maybe the opportunity to see the world's best track athletes — Genzebe Dibaba, Chanelle Price, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce — will serve as inspiration to the young women of Qatar. If they can get permission to drive to the meet.