Following a nationwide competition, the winning design of the mascot for the Middle East’s first-ever World Athletics Championships was announced on the country’s annual National Sports Day.
Falah, an athletic falcon emblazoned in the Qatari flag’s maroon colour, was unveiled as the official mascot of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at a specially-held ceremony at Qatar Foundation’s Awsaj Academy, attended by President HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani, President of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) and a host of current and future Team Qatar athletes.
However, the most important guests of the event were the 490 children from a diverse range of local and international schools across Doha, who took part in a series of sports related activities to celebrate the launch of Falah with the help of Team Qatar’s 400m runner Mariam Farid and a group of Aspire Academy’s promising athletes.
Special National Sports Day celebration
On National Sports Day, an annual public holiday in Qatar, the children participated in different inspiring and educational sports activities, coordinated by the IAAF and implemented though the Qatar Athletics Federation and Tsukuba University, who are part of the Tokyo 2020 legacy programme, Sports For Tomorrow. The University of Tsukuba has cooperated with the IAAF in inspiring young children through sport through their respective Nanairo Ekiden and Kids’ Athletics programmes in this joint effort which started in Rio in 2016 and will conclude in Tokyo in 2020.
The selection of Falah followed a thorough and detailed process in which a total of 21 sketches were submitted to the Local Organising Committee (LOC) from residents of Qatar before a multi-staged voting process took place to decide the winner. Young ambassadors aged 8-16 were invited to vote for their favourite designs as Team Qatar’s hammer thrower Ashraf Amgad El Seify introduced and explained the sketches to them.
The young ambassadors’ vote narrowed the competing designs down to eight. Explaining her vote for Falah, nine-year-old Maria from Park House School said: “I really like falcons, so I liked Falah a lot and he also looks like a superhero in his outfit which is what athletes are. So strong, powerful, and fast!”
Then QOC President HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani and LOC staff cut the selection down to a shortlist of three final designs. Falah, a character with close connections to the Qatari culture and heritage, was finally chosen as the eventual winner.
Speaking during the milestone event, Vice Chairman and Director General of the Local Organising Committee and Vice President of the IAAF, Dahlan Al Hamad, said: “Falah represents the pursuit of excellence and symbolises the importance of always giving your very best in everything you do. These are the values and ambitions of the LOC, as we look to deliver an event that inspires a new generation and welcomes fans from all corners of the world.
“As a falcon, Falah can fly freely into new horizons without boundaries and that is our approach shaping and supporting athletics of the future. We want to showcase this wonderful sport to new audiences and more people than ever before, and engage new young athletes across Qatar, the region and the world. That can only happen if people take flight and join us by descending into Doha for the first ever IAAF World Championships in the Middle East, so the spirit of flight and adventure really connected with us through Falah.
“Athletics for Falah is a way to show the world how to be a true athlete. He is competitive, courageous, and helpful like no other. He is loyal, funny, helps his friends and often shows off his athletic moves,” said Theodore Paul Manuel, the Filipino expat who created Falah.
Manuel, who has called Qatar home since 2010, received a financial prize of QR 10,000 for his winning design, but the real prize will be watching Falah take centre stage at the World Championships in September, and inspire thousands of children as he visits schools and sports clubs across the country on his journey to the World Championships. “I’m very excited that my idea will become a reality. I want to see how Falah inspires the event especially among the younger generation,” Manuel said.
On a day filled with energy and action, the younger children, aged 5-8, took part in the IAAF’s signature Kids’ Athletics programme, one of the biggest grassroots development programmes in the world of sports. Kids’ Athletics aims to introduce children to the basics of running, jumping and throwing in a fun way, and promote their interest in athletics and a healthy lifestyle.
The older children, aged 9-13, took part in the Nanairo Ekiden, an inclusive relay race based on the traditional Japanese ekiden relay, with teams identified by T-shirts in the seven colours of the rainbow (nanairo), each representing one of the Olympic, Paralympic and IAAF values: excellence, courage, inspiration/commitment/determination, friendship, respect, integrity/fair-play and equality/inclusiveness. Teams consisted of a mix of participants, including children of both genders, disabled athletes and star runners, who all joined efforts towards a common goal.
As well as the sport activities, the children also participated in a series of workshops around a variety of themes, ranging from sustainability (raising awareness in young children of the impact their small actions have on the environment), values (with a focus on friendship and inclusiveness), adaptive sports (to make the children aware of the difficulties faced by athletes with disabilities and how these can be overcome) and Japanese and Qatari culture. QADA and JADA also staged a joint 'I Play True' activity, to relay the message of Truth in sport, and collect messages on this theme in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020.
IAAF Heritage exhibit to open on 18 April
Building on the exciting reveal of Falah, the LOC has confirmed that the world’s greatest athletics collection is coming to Doha thanks to the IAAF Heritage World Athletics Championships Exhibition, 1983 to 2019. The exhibition is poised to give school children and fans alike from the local community a unique chance to see the values of Falah come to life through an unrivalled collection of athletics memorabilia, showcasing the sports greatest ever figures including Sprint kings Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt.
Supported by text, photographic and video displays, the exhibition focuses on the 35-year history of the IAAF World Athletics Championships which were inaugurated in 1983 and is set to open for a six-month period from 18 April 2019 in City Center Doha shopping mall, West Bay Area, Doha.
Doha will be welcoming 2000 athletes from 213 countries along with approximately 10,000 international guests, 30,000 spectators from outside Qatar and media representatives from around the world. The third biggest sporting event in the world will be broadcasted to more than 200 countries. The competition will be held from 27 September to 6 October at Khalifa International Stadium.
Ticket packages for the widely anticipated event went on sale for fans and families across the world in September. With seat prices starting at an affordable €14, tickets have been selling well with some categories selling out eight months ahead of the opening ceremony.
More information is available on the official website and by following @IAAFDoha2019 on social media.
LOC for the IAAF