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Qatar acknowledges free tickets to fill stadium at world championships

DOHA, Qatar -- Qatari organizers have acknowledged giving away free tickets in an attempt to fill the track stadium during the world track and field championships.

The acknowledgment came Saturday, the ninth day of the championships in Doha, where empty seats at Khalifa Stadium have been a blemish on the IAAF showpiece.

The local organizing committee said it -- along with "partners and public institutions'' -- distributed the tickets in a "marketing outreach to embassies, employees, schools and higher education.''

Via an international public-relations company, the committee said some fans have been leaving the stadium after watching specific events, and it has tried to find people to occupy those seats to "keep the stadium as full as possible."

A statement said organizers particularly wanted to give people the opportunity to see Mutaz Barshim of Qatar win high jump gold on Friday night, and they claim the crowd exceeded 40,000.

The championships end Sunday night.