London hopes for third time lucky
After hosting the 2012 Olympics, the prospect of staging the World Athletics Championships five years later may seem a bit of an anti-climax for London.
But there is a lot at stake when the 27 members of the IAAF council make their decision at the Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo on Friday.
First of all there's British sporting pride. After the humiliation of England's defeat in the race to stage the 2018 football World Cup last December, the country has again put a lot on the line to try to secure a major international sports event.
If London loses it would be the third time in a decade that the city has come up short with track and field's blue riband event. The 2005 championships had to be handed back after the Picketts Lock fiasco while a bid for 2015 was dropped because of uncertainty surrounding the legacy plans for the Olympic Stadium.
Lose out again and there have to be serious doubts over London's willingness to bid again for 2019.
But even more important than all that is the question of legacy for London's £500m Olympic Stadium after 2012.
Will the track at the Olympic Stadium see action in 2017? Picture: Getty.
When sports minister Hugh Robertson announced last month that the deal to hand the venue over to West Ham and Newham Council had been terminated, one of the reasons cited was to bring greater certainty at a time when London was trying to persuade the IAAF to back the city's 2017 World Championships bid.
The legal dispute with Tottenham meant there could be no guarantees over when the stadium reopened after the Games and with the IAAF burned by previous encounters with London, it was decided to take the stadium back into public ownership, guaranteeing the track is retained in a 60,000-seater venue.
If London were to now lose, then it will be deeply embarrassing for ministers who have staked so much on this one event six years from now.
Although the Olympic Park Legacy Company has not reopened the tender process for potential rental tenants in the stadium after the Games, we now know they will be bidding for a 99-year lease.
All the signs are West Ham will end up renting the stadium under those terms, but without the prospect of the one major event athletics can deliver, then many will ask 'why retain the running track at all'?
Lord Coe's promise may have been crucial in securing the London 2012 Games but keeping that promise has to be balanced against a potential subsidy of £5m a year for an athletics stadium which may never host the sport's main event.
As one government source confided in me this week, winning the 2017 bid will make everyone's lives a lot easier.
There are other considerations too. Lord Coe's own career after 2012 is also intertwined with Friday's decision. Failure to win the vote will cast further doubt on his chances of becoming president of the IAAF when Lamine Diack stands down in 2015.
For the IAAF this comes down to a straight choice between the safe bet of a return to the sport's European heartland or a leap into the unknown with Doha - albeit one cushioned by Qatar's considerable wealth.
Doha has tried to overcome doubts over the heat (they will stage the championships in September to try and avoid the searing summer temperatures) by flexing its financial muscles this week. The bid promised to underwrite the IAAF's £5m prize money commitments.
London counters that by promising to deliver greater broadcasting and commercial revenues.
London also hopes its considerable support in the International Olympic Committee - earned through the smooth planning for the 2012 Games - will persuade the IAAF to support them. The IOC is deeply uneasy about Qatar's plans to bid for the 2020 Olympics (because of the heat) and knows awarding Doha the 2017 World Championships could present them with a real dilemma.
In the last few weeks, the government has gone to great lengths to convince the IAAF it really wants these championships. It has agreed to underwrite potential losses of £25m, they took the stadium back into public ownership to safeguard the track (although Spurs' legal challenge to the West Ham decision was a greater factor in this) and even last week Hugh Robertson flew to Monaco for a meeting with Diack.
All that should give London the edge even in the face of Doha's finances and promise to take the event to the Arab world for the first time.
But as the 2018 World Cup vote demonstrated, it is never wise to assume anything when it comes to decisions made in secret by unaccountable governing bodies.