The 2017 track and field vote

There can be zero doubt that Doha not only could but would stage first-class track and field championships in 2017. It staged memorable world indoor championships in 2010. I know. I was there. The Qatari capital is an amazing place. It is alive not only with resource but with ambition and imagination.

But it's in everyone's interest, including and perhaps especially the Qatar bid team, for London to win the 2017 track and field championships when the IAAF, the sport's worldwide governing body, votes Friday in Monaco.

To be clear, the IAAF is faced with a distinct choice.

It goes to a new territory. Or it recognizes that every now and then, track and field has to go back home.

Europe is where track draws its biggest audiences and London has always been the sport's touchstone.

That said, there is much to offer in going to a new territory. Indeed, international sport is aglow with expansion to "new horizons," as the Pyeongchang 2018 bid team so cleverly encapsulated it in their winning slogan this year for those Winter Olympics. Brazil, Russia, South Korea and, of course, Qatar for soccer in 2022 -- all offer the promise of expanding markets and, this is key, full government backing.

Again, such government support is essential. It's how you win the campaign and then how you run the event itself.

(Caveat: The rules are different for American bids. But these are not American bids.)

If the IAAF opts for Doha, the Qataris would refurbish Al Khalifa Stadium, which was used for the 2006 Asian Games, installing -- among other improvements -- a massive video board. They would also incorporate the air-conditioning technology already in place at the Al Sadd suburban soccer stadium.

The technology works. I have been in the stands. It was over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside. In the seats and on the pitch itself, it was more like 78.

Money is no object in Doha. Everyone knows that. The Qataris are sitting on a huge deposit of natural gas, and have proven conservative about how they develop it; they're looking at a 100-year run of prosperity, intent on developing their country into a 21st-century economic, political, cultural and social force.

While much of the rest of the world may be staggering financially, the Qataris are soaring. Just one statistic from the Doha 2017 bid committee files to illustrate the point: Qatar's second-quarter 2011 GDP growth compared to second-quarter 2010: up 42 percent.

Once again, and for emphasis: up 42 percent in one year!

I have written some of these things before about Qatar but at the risk of repetition:

Northwestern, where I went to college, has opened a branch of my journalism school, Medill, in Doha. Other American universities have also opened branches there.

There is an American-style mall -- it's called Villagio and located next to both the Al Khalifa Stadium and Aspire Dome sports complex -- that rivals anything you'd find in Las Vegas.

It's about as difficult to buy a Guinness at the Irish Harp, the bar downstairs at the Sheraton, along the Corniche in central Doha, as it is at one of the pubs outside Wrigley Field in Chicago. Like, you pay the bartender.

Sport is an explicit part of the country's growth plan, down to the elementary schools, where an Olympic-style competition program -- with 92 events for boys, 62 for girls -- is part of the school year.

True enough, Qatar is one of three nations yet to send a female athlete to the Summer Games. But not because it's not trying -- as an Olympic committee spokesman has made clear in comments posted to this space over the past few months.

The 2022 World Cup is going to massively accelerate change in Qatar.

And of course the country is bidding now for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

It would be a coup, obviously, to win the 2017 track championships.

But -- it's a question of timing.

Doha's time will come. Maybe in 2019, and if the IAAF wants to award those championships to Doha on Friday, there would be no quarrel here.

But for 2017, as difficult as it would be for the Qataris to acknowledge, the very best thing for them and for world and Olympic sport would be for them to lose and the Brits to win.

This is, in some regard, a matter of credibility.

It would enhance Qatari credibility significantly in the short- and long-term if, in a non-transparent ballot involving 26 potential voters, in a contest that -- fair or not -- would doubtlessly be susceptible to allegations of manipulation, London were to prevail.

Life sometimes isn't fair. This is one such instance.

This 2017 track and field vote comes after the 2018 and 2022 soccer campaigns. FIFA is in the midst of purportedly intense self-examination. The Qataris have claimed they did nothing wrong to win 2022; even so, perception in politics is as important, and sometimes more so, than reality, and the perception is out there that their money skews whatever process they're involved in.

The Qataris ought to better understand that this perception is their reality.

That's the hurdle they're facing for the 2020 Summer Games, an obstacle that's so formidable it almost got them eliminated -- at the IOC executive board level -- from that campaign before it even started. It's so strong it is still far from clear that Doha, which clearly would be technically capable of staging an Olympics, will make it through to the list of cities that actually goes to the IOC vote for 2020 in September 2013.

Moreover, this 2017 vote represents something of an acid test for the Olympic movement. The International Olympic Committee has over the past decade launched a blueprint for the Games that says all cities must build into their planning the idea of real, sustainable legacy. The idea is to avoid the proverbial "white elephants," like the modernized stadium in Athens that since 2004 has mostly just been baking in the sun.

The IAAF has already recognized that stadiums purpose-built for Olympic track and field need afterward to be used for world or regional track and field championships. Beijing's Bird Nest stadium, for instance, will play host to the 2015 world championships.

London and 2017, however, will mark the first real test of the IOC build-in legacy policy.

The British government -- in the midst of a downturn that has affected most but obviously not all nations of the world -- invested roughly $20 billion in urban planning and in building projects. Olympic Stadium is the centerpiece of all of that. The track is the jewel of the stadium.

Almost three years ago, when there was tremendous pressure from soccer clubs and other interests about what to do with the track after the Games, the IAAF president, Lamine Diack, spoke up, saying that when bidding for the 2012 Games in 2005 the London team had made a promise to keep the track in place.

"I think this shows a lack of respect for my sport," Diack said amid suggestions the track might be replaced after the Games.

This week, London's 2017 bid made clear that UK Athletics would be granted a 99-year lease for use of the track at the stadium -- essentially the lifetime of the stadium.

To not vote for London now would show a thorough lack of respect for what the British government has done. It has, in every way and in tough economic times in its part of the world, demonstrated good faith and commitment, not just to the Olympic movement but to track and field. It has made good on its promises. It has delivered.

Now it's on the IAAF to do the same.