Wheelchair athletes finally given green light

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 February, 2011, 12:00am

Wheelchair athletes will be able to take part in the city's marathon for the first time next year, the chairman of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association said.

Kwan Kee revealed after yesterday's showpiece event that it was always the association's intention to promote a wheelchair marathon.

He confirmed it would start next year, provided they could sort out all the logistics.

'I urge the wheelchair athletes to start training soon and prepare themselves when we start the event next year,' he said.

'We have a target of recruiting a minimum of 10 racers, but no more than 20 in view of the capacity of the roads and the timing of the closure of the roads.' The organisers called off the wheelchair event this year due to insufficient entries.

But they were accused by wheelchair athletes of giving them too little time to submit their entries. Only two were eventually received.

Chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Lam Woon-kwong, said yesterday he was disappointed the organisers cancelled the wheelchair marathon this year.

Ajmal Samuel, a veteran wheelchair athlete, has long been calling for Hong Kong to follow the likes of London, New York, Singapore and Beijing and include a marathon over the full distance for wheelchair athletes.

He presented Kwan with a Facebook petition signed by more than 450 backers yesterday. But the brief exchange took place outside Victoria Park because Samuel and his supporters were not allowed through security into the main area.

He said: 'Every year they tell me they will do something about it, but they don't do anything about it.'

A flier handed out by Samuel's supporters outside Victoria Park stated: 'Hong Kong prides itself on not only being Asia's world city, but a city where diversity and inclusion are part of her makeup.

'In most respects one could argue that this was so.

'Yet in one of the city's most popular and stellar events, excuses abound to exclude the participation of one group of people.

'The Hong Kong Marathon ... has no place for integrating wheelchairs alongside conventional competitors.'

Samuel, 45, branded this year's attempt to include a 10-kilometre wheelchair race as 'half-hearted' after potential participants were only given two months to enter.

Only two entries were received, falling short of the 20-athlete minimum set by the HKAAA, which insisted 200 extra marshals and an extra hour of road closures would be required.