AAA Chief: ‘Will fight anybody who tries to mix sport with politics’

Thirteen athletes from Bahrain were supposed to have come to Bhubaneswar, according to the provisional entry list, and since almost all of them are yet to qualify for next month’s Worlds, they would have been desperate to win here and book their London berths.

Dahlan Al-Hamad, the President of the Asian Athletics Association and IAAF Vice President, at the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar.   -  Stan Rayan

There has been a strange silence over Bahrain’s last-minute withdrawal from the Asian Championships here. Thirteen athletes were supposed to have come to Bhubaneswar, according to the provisional entry list, and since almost all of them are yet to qualify for next month’s Worlds, they would have been desperate to win here and book their London berths.

In fact two Jamaican sprinters, Kemarley Brown and Andrew Fisher who switched allegiance to Bahrain two years go, also figured in the start list for the men’s 100m on the Asians’ opening day along with Dalila Abdulkadir, the female 1500m runner.

Qatar’s Dahlan Al-Hamad is the President of the Asian Athletics Association and there is speculation here that the current Gulf crisis has spilled over to the sporting arena.

Bahrain is one of the four major countries, and this includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that had recently cut ties with Qatar.

So, is there a link there?

“I doubt it, because the situation in the Gulf is a political situation, we never look at these things in sport. I did not look at it that way and I think they did not look that way too,” said Dahlan, also the Vice President of the world body IAAF, in a chat with Sportstar here on Friday night.

“Bahrain is one of our main federations, they have good athletes. There is no reason why they did not come here. I think this is the first time they have not participated in these championships since their team became big.”

He made it clear that he would fight to ensure that nobody mixes sport and politics.

“For us, the most important thing is not to make involve sport with politics, no way. And we will fight anybody who tries to involve sport with politics.”

Qatar will be hosting the next Asians and the World Championships in Doha in 2019, and Dahlan said he was working with the IAAF to ensure that stars turn up for continental meets.

“We have already raised this with the IAAF President (Sebastian Coe), to bring an IAAF rule that will have Asians competing in these championships,” said Dahlan, also the Vice Chairman of the 2019 Doha Worlds.