Hong Kong beer race requiring participants to drink a can every 400m draws criticism

Organiser of 1,600m event says focus is on fun and encouraging running in city

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 July, 2017, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 July, 2017, 10:52pm

A Hong Kong running competition requiring participants to drink beer as they race has drawn criticism from doctors and the health authority.

The Department of Health has sent a letter to the event organiser warning of the risk of alcohol consumption during a race, a spokesman said in a statement on Monday night.

“Alcohol consumption has an adverse effect on sport performance. It is not advisable,” he said. “We urge the organiser not to encourage participants to drink when doing sports.”

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He explained that alcohol could cause dehydration and increase the risk of having an accident.

Alcohol consumption is banned in some sports, according to the World Health Organisation.

Medical Association president Dr Gabriel Choi Kin echoed the department’s concern, adding that drinking alcohol would make it difficult for runners to focus.

Some 3,000 to 5,000 participants were expected to take part in “Beer Run 2017” at Kai Tak cruise terminal on November 4.

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During the 1,600m run, participants must drink at least four cans of beer – one each before racing 400m.

Andes Leung Pak-hang, CEO and co-founder of event organiser RunOurCity, said the aim was to promote street running, including among those who had never previously participated in sport.

Providing beer creates a happy atmosphere
Andes Leung Pak-hang, RunOurCity

“Providing beer creates a happy atmosphere,” he explained.

Leung noted questions had arisen as to why a social enterprise such as RunOurCity would advocate drinking alcohol.

“The race is for fun, not competition,” he added. “We hope the participants enjoy the event.”

But Choi said the medical sector did not endorse the set-up.

“It’s already illegal to drive a vehicle after drinking four cans of beer,” the doctor said. “Although drink-running is not against the law, it increases the likelihood of having an accident.”

The medical sector joined the Department of Health in advocating that alcohol drinking be stopped, he added.

Hong Kong footballer So Wai-chuen, an event ambassador, said the drinking component would put participants at ease.

“They can relax and have fun in the event when not focusing on competing,” So said.

But he added it could be challenging for runners to jog right after downing a can of beer.

Leung, who used to work for a beer company before founding the social enterprise in 2013, said the money raised in the event would go to help the local needy and teenagers seeking work.

Last August, the group organised a similar competition at night that included beer drinking and running.

This year’s race is to be held from 2 to 10pm, and the enrolment fee in the individual race category is HK$348, while a relay team of four people must pay HK$1,200.