With world watching, masses make Hong Kong Marathon a true success
It's an event that attracts competitors from around the globe but the real heroes are the locals, who show what makes this truly 'Asia's World City'
Forget the moans emanating from the transport lobby and from the tycoons who see their privileged double-parking spots taken away for one, whole morning once a year. Talk to the public and you'll soon find that shutting down the streets on a Sunday morning for an event that attracts 72,000 entrants - and thousands of spectators - is not a problem at all.
From 4am to 6am yesterday, those very same streets were abuzz as athletes or all shapes and sizes - and ability - readied themselves for action. They mingled with the dribs and drabs of the night before in the pre-dawn haze of the MTR, too, where you could find a strange mix of people wondering why they had left home so early and those wondering why they had stayed away from home so long.
Caroline Williams wasn't quite sure what all the fuss was about as she made her way back to her hotel from a night out in Central. The 25-year-old, first-time visitor to Hong Kong from London perked up though hazy eyes when told there was a marathon and said she fancied taking a look.
It was probably a good thing, given her fragile state, that Williams got off one stop early - either by accident or design - because once you emerged from the subway at the Victoria Park exit, there was a crowd bustling and a drumming from off in the distance.
Inside the Cheering Zone, thousands were massed behind their colours. To one side there was the Li & Fung Group posse exhausted, one hopes, more from the 10km event than from any stress they might be feeling over their company's struggling fortunes.
Down the other end of the zone, you could find competitors from the Chinese University of Hong Kong being put through their post-race warm-downs by members of the school's faculty of medicine and sports staff.
"We are celebrating our 50th anniversary this year and the university decided to get a team together to join in this event," explained Hardaway Chan Chun-kwan, an assistant lecturer in the department of orthopaedics and traumatology. "Everyone has had a great time and we are here to make sure they warm down properly and don't take home any injuries."
In the end, around 1,000 people signed on for CUHK and they were roared on whenever one of their number ran past. The pounding, it turned out, came from Hong Kong Polytechnic University's cheerleaders, gathered around their drum and chanting "PolyU" with every beat.
Marathon Sunday is a morning where Hong Kong's community spirit gets its place in the sun - or haze, as the case may be. And even just outside the commotion, just there beneath the flyover and opposite the Hong Kong Central Library, you could find a mix of what makes this city what it is.
One person's community event is another's commercial opportunity and an entrepreneur called May crossed the waters from Tsim Sha Tsui to be out there with a few others on the street before dawn selling knock-off iPhone armbands.
"We knew there would be thousands of people here today because everyone knows how popular the marathon is," said May. "It looks like a lot of fun and we thought it would be a great time to make some money, too."
Men: 1. Julius Maisei (Kenya) 2 hours, 14 minutes and 18 seconds; 2. James Kariuki Mbugua (Kenya) 2:14:28; 3. Deribe Robi (Ethiopia 2:14:37.
Women: 1. Misiker Demissie (Ethiopia) 2:30:49; 2. Makda Harun (Ethiopia) 2:31:20; 3. Kim Kum-Ok (North Korea) 2:32:21.
14th Asian Marathon Championships
Men: 1. Bat-Ochir Ser-Od (Mongolia) 2:17:56; 2. Anoley Petrov (Uzbekistan) 2:20:24; 3. Kenzo Kawabata (Japan) 2:22:22.
Women: 1. Kim Kum-ok (North Korea) 2:32:21; 2. Kumi Ogura (Japan) 2:35:02; 3. Andreeva Iuliia (Kirghizistan).
Men: 1. Yuta Koyama (Japan) 1:08:49; 2. Thomas Kiprotich (Hong Kong) 1:11:23; 3. John Philip Duenas (Philippines) 1:13:18.
Women: 1. Christy Yiu Kit-ching (Hong Kong) 1:20:47; 2. Jane Hodgskin (Australia) 1:25:11; 3. Sarah Cheung Hoi-wah (Hong Kong) 1:25:57.
Men: 1. Clinton Mackevicius (Australia) 31:54; 2. Chan Ka Ho (Hong Kong) 32:33; 3. Tang Ho-fai (Hong Kong) 32:39.
Women: 1. Joyce Cheung Ting-yan (Hong Kong) 39:32; 2. Yu Wing-hay (Hong Kong) 39:42; 3. Kong Lai-ming (Hong Kong).