World Athletics Championships Starting Saturday In Moscow As Controversies Loom
Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium has been "giving world athletics the chills over recent months," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. Ahead of the World Athletics Championships, which start Saturday, "poor ticket sales" and "growing international outrage over new Russian laws that discriminate against gay people, and heightened public cynicism over a new spate of positive drug tests -- including dozens from the host country -- have combined to create a potential perfect storm for the organisers." The event "needs to succeed in order to maintain the momentum from the 2012 Games and keep sponsors and broadcasters happy." But events appear to be "conspiring against it." Some athletes, including Greg Rutherford and Dai Greene, "have questioned whether the world championships should be in Moscow in light of the positive drug tests" and allegations that Russia's only World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory has "manipulated results." More than 40 Russian athletes are "currently serving bans." Green: "There are a lot of big names that won't be there in Moscow, which is sad for the sport. At the same time, there are a lot of reports on doping which detract from those great performances you do see." Int'l Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) officials are "hoping that there is both a late surge in ticket buyers... and that those who have been given free tickets actually turn up." Ukrainian IAAF VP Sergei Bubka, who is chair of the coordination commission, admitted that "there had been a last-minute scramble to ensure the stadium, which has had its capacity reduced to 50,000 for the duration of the championships, would not look embarrassingly empty." He revealed that British Olympic Association Chair Sebastian Coe had been "called on to use his experience of filling stadiums during the London Games to help Moscow." The IAAF "officially" said that "85% of sessions have been sold and it remains confident that all evening sessions will sell out following an unprecedented advertising blitz across the city" (GUARDIAN, 8/8).