Nawal El Moutawakel in May 1997 (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Doha, Qatar

IAAF women's workshop in conjunction with Doha Grand Prix

The Doha Grand Prix, in the Arab Emirate of Qatar, will take place on Thursday with the participation of the some of the world’s top men and women athletes. First introduced last year with the patronage of the Qatar royal family, the meeting‘s success led the IAAF Council to grant it Grand Prix II status.

For the 1998 edition, the organisers have a star-filled field, led by Donovan Bailey (CAN), Olympic champion and world record holder in the 100m; Butch Reynolds, world record holder in the 400m and American brothers Calvin and Alvin Harrison. Olympic 1500m champion Noureddine Morceli (ALG) and Wilson Boit Kipketer, world champion in the 3000m steeplechase are among the stars of the middle distance events, while Colin Jackson (GBR), silver medallist in the 110m hurdles in Athens will be facing Igor Kovàc (SVK), Jack Pierce (USA) and Courtney Hawkins (USA). Quality fields too for the long jump, with Eric Walder (USA), James Beckford (JAM), Kirill Sosunov (RUS) and Cheikh Touré, and the high jump, where Olympic champion Charles Austin competes against Australia’s Tim Forsyth, bronze medallist in Athens last year. Excitement is guaranteed in the pole vault, with superman Sergey Bubka (UKR) competing against Okkert Brits (RSA), Tim Lobinger (GER) and Dean Starkey (USA).

But the expected crowd of tens of thousands of spectators wont just be thrilled by the men athletes. The women’s events, too, will be of the highest level, with athletes like Inger Miller (USA), Juliet Cuthbert (JAM), Olabisi Afolabi (NGR), Deon Hemmings (JAM), Maria Akraka (SWE), Kutre Dulecha (ETH), Michelle Freeman (JAM), Patricia Girard (FRA) and Trine Hattestad (NOR) all competing.

The participation of women athletes is the great novelty of this Qatar International Meeting and represents a major change for the cultural and religious traditions of the Arab world. The importance of the moment is further underlined by the organisation by the IAAF, in close collaboration with the Qatar royal family and the Qatar Athletic Federation, of a workshop entitled: "Towards the Third Millennium - The growing role of women in sport and society".

The workshop is one of the many initiatives undertaken by the IAAF within the context of the Year of Women in Athletics, which is being celebrated around the world throughout 1998.

Last March, in Marrakech, on the occasion of the 26th edition of the World Cross Country Championships, the King of Morocco himself, Hassan II, recognised the growing role of women and praised the Moroccan women’s team, who won the world short cross title. His son, Prince Moulay Rachid, gave the champions their gold medals.

It is obvious that, from Morocco to the Gulf States, there is a major movement towards women’s emancipation. Naturally, this movement is taking place within the framework of the cultural and religious traditions of the Arab world and should be followed by the western world with care, but also with respect and sensitivity.

These arguments will also be discussed in the workshop, and it is not impossible that the wife of the Emir, Sheikha Muza al-Mussanad, who recently declared her conviction that "the women of Qatar should play an active role in the country’s political life", attend.

Tomorrow’s all-female workshop, among women who have been, and remain, leaders of the world of sport, and Thursday’s athletics meeting are small but significant steps along a road which, though it may be slow and difficult and demands prudence, must be followed with courage and conviction.

The Programme

10:00-10:10 Nawal El Moutawakel-Bennis - Chairwoman (IAAF Council Member, IOC Member and former Olympic champion) The IAAF Year of Women in Athletics

10:10-10:20 Patricia Rico (President of USATF and IAAF International Technical Official) Women in Sports Administration

10:20-10:30 Irena Szewinska (IAAF Women’s Committee Member, IOC Member, President of the Polish Athletic Federation and former Olympic champion)
Social Changes and Women's Athletics in Eastern Europe

10:30-10:40 Grace Jackson (Former sprint star and Member of the IAAF Athlete’s Commission)
Evolution of Women's Athletics

10:40-10:50 Ghada Shouaa (1995 World Heptathlon champion)
My Experience as an Arab Woman Athlete

10:50-11:00 Trine Hattestad (1993 World Javelin champion)
Reconciling Motherhood and Elite Athletics

11:10-11:20 Jenny Horrocks (BBC World Service)
A Woman Journalist in a Man's World

11:20-11:30 Caroline Feith (Authorised athletes representative)
A Woman's Touch in Athletes' Management

11:30-12:30 Open Forum