Three cities entered the bidding process to host the event. Assessment of the bids was carried out by the IAAF Evaluation Commission, which consisted of three IAAF Council Members (IAAF Vice President Sebastian Coe, Abby Hoffman and
Katsuyuki Tanaka), three IAAF Office members (
Nick Davies, Paul Hardy) and public relations staff from Dentsu (Junko Shiota, Ryo Wakabayashi) and marketing staff from Athletics Management & Services (Nigel Swinscoe).
, venue of the Eugene bid, which failed to win the 2019 hosting rights but was awarded the 2021 event.
Both Doha and Eugene are hosts of IAAF Diamond League meetings. Doha had previously applied for and failed to win the bid for the 2017 World Championships in Athletics, and had hosted the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships. Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, a member of Qatar's ruling family, led the Doha bid. The bid was part of a movement among the leaders of Qatar to make the country a destination for international sports tourism, within the framework of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which included the hosting of global sports events, such as the 2014 FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m), 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and a Doha bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Eugene had hosted the 2014 World Junior Championships in Athletics. Barcelona hosted the 2012 World Junior Championships in Athletics and the 2010 European Athletics Championships, as well as the annual Míting Internacional d´Atletisme Ciutat de Barcelona. The final selection of the host city was carried out on 18 November 2014 in Monaco.
Barcelona was eliminated in the first round of voting, receiving only six of the 27 votes, then Doha prevailed in the final round with fifteen votes to Eugene's twelve. IAAF President said that the Doha bid would develop the country and its community through sport.
José María Odriozola, the president of the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation, said that the worst bid had won the vote and "the only thing they have there is money".
The IAAF later awarded Eugene the hosting rights for the 2021 World Athletics Championships without submitting to a bidding process – a move which was criticised by European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen as Gothenburg had been preparing a bid. This decision became subject to investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service. The head of the 2017 Evaluation Committee, Sebastian Coe, was investigated by the BBC for conflict of interest, as emails suggested he had lobbied IAAF President Lamine Diack in favour of the Eugene bid, while working for Nike, Inc. which was a key stakeholder in Oregon.
In 2016, the French newspaper Le Monde claimed the selection of the host would have been paid with US$3.5 million transferred between October and November 2011 according to the US tax administration, to Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack (former president of the IAAF). In 2019 The Guardian reported documents showing an agreement to pay US$4.5 million to Sporting Age, a Singapore-based company linked to Papa Massata Diack, in order to transfer the value of World Championships ticket sales and sponsorship to Qatari officials. In 2019, the French prosecutors charged some protagonists for corruption: the head of beIN Sports Yousef Al-Obaidly, the former president of IAAF Lamine Diack, and the head of Paris Saint Germain Nasser Al-Khelaifi. A French judge opened investigations into Dentsu and Athletics Management & Services in 2019, on the basis that the companies (which had been involved in the host evaluation) had played key roles in the diversion of funds to Papa Massata Diack.
The selection of Doha as the host city was later criticised by numerous athletes present at the championships. Marathon fifth-placer Volha Mazuronak said organisers were disrespectful to athletes to make them compete in the conditions, and 50 km walk world champion Yohann Diniz was unhappy that the road events had not been located in the air-conditioned stadium instead. Decathlon world record holder Kevin Mayer said organisers had not prioritised athletes in respect of the climate and low spectator attendance. In response to low attendances, the stadium capacity was reduced to 21,000 for the championships, with large banners covering the empty seats, yet on the third day less than half these seats were filled despite the organisers giving free tickets to migrant workers and children. In response to the issue, IAAF Chief Executive Jon Ridgeon worked with the local organisers to take attendance-boosting measures. Ridgeon suggested that sessions were organised late in the evening for European television audiences, which meant working Qataris had gone home before the last event finals had begun (around 11 pm local time). He also said the IAAF's plan had been for the championships to serve people across the Middle East, but the Qatar diplomatic crisis had blocked people from other countries in the region from attending. Three days before the competition it was reported that 50,000 tickets had been sold for the 10-day event, signalling a 90% reduction in sales compared to the 2017 World Championships in Athletics. In response, local organisers purchased tickets and distributed them for free to ensure sizeable attendances, and also ran an initiative to allow spectators to enter the stadium and fill vacant seats left by audience members who left mid-session.
The issue of human rights in Qatar was also raised as over 6000 migrant labourers, some involved in construction and cleaning of the host stadium, had lodged complaints over unpaid wages against Qatari companies. IAAF President Coe responded that the championships was a way to achieve social change and "rise above political structures".
The decision to hold the World Athletics Championships in the Middle East presented organisational challenges due to the hot and humid climate in Doha in September and October. In previous years the World Championships had mostly qualifying competitions in morning sessions and finals mostly in afternoon sessions. Weather conditions meant that traditional arrangement was not workable and in Doha the schedule was redesigned to have a "pre-session" in the afternoon and a "main session" in the evening. The Khalifa International Stadium used an open-air conditioning system to bring the temperature of the stadium to below 25 °C (77 °F), which was a world first for a stadium.
In collaboration with Seiko, a starting blocks camera view was broadcast from the Khalifa International Stadium's Block Cams. The intimate views from the blocks were the subject of complaint by the German Athletics Association, which said its female sprinters had not been consulted on the broadcasting of the images. The IAAF agreed to only show Block Cam images of athletes immediately prior to the starting pistol and to delete video data at other times on a daily basis. Gina Lückenkemper said the technology was "unpleasant" as it captured close images of athletes' crotches in tight clothing. The stadium also features an advanced lighting system, which was used in the introductions of some event finals, projecting coloured lines on to the lane boundaries and the competing athlete's names moving around the 400 m track. New graphical detail of athletes' performance was provided in television coverage, including top speed of athletes in the track and jumping events, angle and release speed in the throws, and the distance of each phase of a triple jump.
Non-stadium racewalking and marathon events were set on a looped course around the Doha Corniche – a 7-kilometre (4.3 mi) waterfront promenade. Organisers set the start time around midnight local time for road events to avoid the hottest conditions, although the women's marathon still began at a temperature of 32 °C (90 °F) and humidity over 70%. The IAAF and local organisers undertook preparation for the conditions by recruiting medical experts to inform their preparations, as well as increasing water and refreshments, ice baths, and medical support along the route. It sent advisory notices to all national federations in the six months before the competition with recommendations for athletes. However, postponement of the events until after the championships was deemed a last resort. The IAAF President Sebastian Coe stated his belief that the humidity was a greater challenge for runners than the temperature itself.
The Khalifa Stadium hosted the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships in April before the world event.
For training and warm-up purposes, an outdoor venue attached to the Khalifa Stadium is available for athletes in running and jumping events, while all athletes (including throwing events) have full training facilities available at the Qatar Sports Club venue near Doha Corniche. At the Aspire Zone, indoor training facilities are available for running and jumping disciplines while a separate outdoor throws training venue is also available.
Venues of the 2019 World Athletics Championships
The event mascot was "Falah", an anthropomorphic falcon dressed in athletic gear in the maroon colour of the flag of Qatar. The mascot was designed by a Filipino expatriate in Doha, Theodore Paul Manuel, and his design was announced as the winner of the design competition on Qatar's national sports day. Twenty-one sketches were submitted and a group of young Qataris were invited to vote on their favourite designs. Following this, the head of the Qatar Olympic Committee Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and members of the local organising committee narrowed the choices down to a shortlist of three for final voting.