Turns out the old adage is true. Organisers’ worst fears were realised when the finish line of the women’s marathon began to resemble a battlefield, with temperatures of 33C and humidity in the high-70s greeting its midnight start.
Just over 40% of the athletes didn’t finish, and it’s easy to see why. Just standing around on Doha’s Corniche felt suffocating. It’s a situation and spectacle to be avoided at all costs in the future, though all signs are that next year’s Olympics in Japan will be much the same.
Where to next for one of Ireland’s best? Granted, Mark English’s preparations were not ideal: he only received an invite a week before competing after missing the qualifying standard, and the three-time European medallist had patchy form this summer, battling biomechanical issues.
But all the same, his performance in his 800m heat — where he finished seventh in 1:47.25 — was not indicative of his ability. With his medical studies in UCD now behind him, the question is where to base himself on the countdown to Tokyo? Should he stay or should he go? His choice will likely determine his Olympic fate.
What did we expect? The majority of Doha residents are migrant workers who are paid a low wage and can’t afford ticket prices as they were set. A lot of the others simply don’t care.
Add to that the late finishes, with some finals taking place close to midnight on weeknights, coupled to the early starts for the aforementioned labourers, and it’s no surprise many of them either left Khalifa Stadium early or didn’t come at all.
That changed as the week went on, with organisers allowing free entrance to all who showed up, which resulted in a raucous atmosphere on the final few nights.
As if we needed reminding, the 27-year-old Portaferry athlete bolstered her growing reputation further by reaching her first global 1500m final, finishing 10th in an event with astonishing depth.
She may have two European medals, but with a personal best run of 4:00.15 when the eyes of the world were on her, her performance in that final was truly the best achievement of her career. She can dare to dream as she looks ahead to Tokyo.
Conseslus Kipruto should not have won the 3000m steeplechase, having been injured for most of the summer, the Kenyan’s training limited to aqua-jogging in a homemade pool he built in his back yard. Mutaz Essa Barshim should not have won the high jump, with his poor form all year after ankle surgery.
Muktar Edris should not have won the 5000m, having been way off his best in 2019 and only receiving a wildcard entry as defending champion. But all three showed their class, conjuring up what was needed to win gold. The mark of a true champion.
The harder it gets, the more Brendan Boyce is in his element. In the most gruelling event of all, the 32-year-old put in a four-hour shift of suffering to finish sixth in the 50km race walk.
As world record holders and Olympic champions crumbled, Boyce just kept on going and going to finish sixth. “Being Irish, we just love misery,” he said. “Misery is happiness to me.”
Yes, the stadiums will be pristine — the fact that half of Doha currently looks like a building site will make sure of that. They’ll also be fully air-conditioned, and fans won’t have to suffer the 42-degree heat athletics fans endured, given that the tournament begins in late November.
But the fan experience in Qatar 2022 could hit a new low. Liquor laws are set to be relaxed, but it’s hard to see much enthusiasm for supporters given the country’s continued human rights abuses, its history of corruption surrounding winning bids, its lack of suitable outdoor areas for fans to mingle, and its strict policy on public intoxication.