Friday, July 3, 2009

Blunders mar marathon

Source: The Star
Thursday July 2, 2009


THE Standard Chartered KL Marathon, held for the first time this year, concluded on Sunday. While the organisers must be glad that the whole event is over, they must be held responsible for the glaring, embarrassing mistakes.

To say the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) and Octagon South East Asia failed would be an understatement.

They had promised to organise an international event with about 12,500 participants and a memorable experience for the runners, spectators as well as the media.

Unfortunately, they did not live up to the promise and it was chaotic end to the race.

The prize-giving ceremony was a farce. Former international R. Muniandy was the fastest Malaysian in the 42km run, crossing the finishing line in a personal best of 2’31:52. Shaharudin Abdullah, who had represented Malaysia in the Korat SEA Games, clocked 2’39:52 to come in second.

I am the champion: Kenya’s Julius Ndiritu Karinga lifting his arm as he crosses the finishing line.

Even the electronic media had interviewed Muniandy after he crossed the finishing line. But Shaharudin was announced the winner and he went up to receive his prize, much to his own surprise.

A media official, who had been covering marathons for almost 10 years, was embarrassed about the whole incident.

“This is the first time I am seeing this happen. I have to wait for the official results to determine the winner. Until then the clippings cannot be carried,’’ said the official.

N.T. Balan, who has been a technical official since the first Kuala Lumpur International Marathon (KLIM) in 1984, said he had a shock when Shaharudin was called up to receive the prize from Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“We had the results with us. We had also compiled the results manually to avoid any problems.

“Unfortunately, the organisers chose not to consult us and went ahead. It was an embarrassing situation for the VIPs present on stage during the ceremony,’’ said Balan.

The blunder involving Muniandy and Shaharudin was not the only bad episode at Dataran Merdeka on that day. The media were not presented with the official results. The group then left at noon after waiting almost three hours.

That was the reason the results of all the categories were not published in the newspapers. The runners also did not have any good words for the organisers.

An elderly participant said no one was at the water stations when he reached the crucial last 10km.

“That is the time when we need water to avoid dehydration. I don’t know why the water stations were not manned and we had to struggle to the finishing line. I took part in the Standard Chartered Marathon in Singapore and it was not like this,’’ said the participant.

The route also came under fire. There were many turning points as the organisers wanted the participants to go through the important landmarks in the city. Unfortunately, this led to the participants criss-crossing and running the wrong way.

In fact, many doubted the official results as they felt the runners did not go through the actual route. The chip system was also questionable.

In the past, the Federal Territory Amateur Athletics Association (FTAAA), as one of the organisers, had handled the technical aspects involved in the marathon. This time the MAAU, as the national body, took charge.

There were also about 200 volunteers but they did not have any experience in the running of a marathon.

The Standard Chartered Bank should be praised for creating a carnival atmosphere at Dataran Merdeka. As the main sponsors, they should not be blamed for the unsporting incidents during the marathon.

The MAAU must realise that they don’t have the expertise to organise a marathon for 12,500 participants. They are just the governing body for athletics in Malaysia. They should work closely with their affiliates to run mammoth events like the marathon.

The MAAU, Octagon and the Standard Chartered Bank should take this year’s KL Marathon as a learning mission. Hopefully, we can see a better marathon next year.
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