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It’s going to be ‘on your marks get set, sweat’ in Doha

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“One thing that has stood out in Doha is the temperature changes that athletes will be exposed to going from inside the stadium and their hotel”

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South African athletes will not have to circumvent their competition but rather the searing heat at the IAAF World Championships in the desert nation of Qatar next year.

Organisers have made contingency plans to ensure the safety of athletes in competition with a sustainable cooling system inside the Khalifa International Stadium. Air-conditioning technology would set track temperatures at 24-26 degrees Celcius during the global showpiece.

SA middle-distance legend and Athletics SA excellence manager Hezekiel Sepeng, who was part of an international delegation that conducted an inspection of competition and training venues, hotels and logistical plans, said the temperatures still posed a challenge.

Sepeng said they would have to ensure they reduced the athletes’ exposure to the fluctuating temperatures to avoid illness.

“One thing that has stood out in Doha is the temperature changes that athletes will be exposed to going from inside the stadium and their hotel,” Sepeng said.

“When you are indoors the temperatures are fine and it feels like you are in another world. But let’s say the temperature outside the stadium is 40 degrees and inside they can drop it to 21.”

Sepeng said while the air-conditioning system would keep the stadium at a comfortable temperature, they would still have to ensure the athletes avoid going into the open out of competition.

The indoor warm-up track will be air-conditioned while some other areas for the throwing events may be exposed to the elements, but close to cooled tents.

“The determining factor for me would be when moving athletes between the fluctuating temperatures when they travel between the hotel and the stadium because they could get sick from the adjustments,” Sepeng said.

“We need to finalise one-on-ones with the coaches but the athletes wouldn’t want to go there days before the competition. They should go in, stay indoors, and when they move out they will get into the bus, straight into the indoor warm-up track which is air-conditioned and from there go into the stadium, where the temperatures are controlled for competition.”

He said although athletes would in the past have arrived early ahead of the competition to acclimatise, he advised against it for Doha. Athletes would do better to arrive as close as possible to compete and avoid exposure to temperature fluctuations.

“They have three venues for the warm-ups but the point is, we need to be careful; we don’t want the athletes to get sick,” he said. “Athletes shouldn’t be thinking they want to go well in advance to acclimatise to the heat because they will not be competing in that heat.

“They will not be spending a lot of time in that heat and roam around like they would at other championships. The best is to stay indoors and the only time they move is when they go to the stadium.”