Hong Kong Marathon close to IAAF 'gold' status
Organisers of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon are confident it will be upgraded to IAAF "gold label" status in 2015 after just missing out this year.
The designation is based on six requirements: race organisation; course timing and measurement; media services; quality of international field of runners; health and safety; and athlete quality. This year's race is silver based on last year's assessment.
"We were able to satisfy five out of the six requirements and the only thing we were nearly there on was the field," said Kwan Kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association.
"Last year, we lacked only one quality runner to meet the gold requirement after that runner failed to turn up at the last minute. Had it not been for that, 2014 would have been gold label."
"Quality" runners must have an IAAF time of at least two hours 12 minutes (men) or 2:28 (women), or have finished in the top 20 in the most recent World Championships or Olympic Games.
Kwan said they had six men and five women from five nations of that standard for the February 16 event. He said some athletes had been paid appearance fees to lure them away from rival international marathons.
The top-ranked contenders in the men's and women's fields are Ethiopians Megersa Bacha (2:06.56) and Ashu Kasim Rabo (2:23.09) respectively.
"Our prize money has been increased to US$300,000 this year [from US$250,000] in order to attract the top runners, but we still needed to negotiate with some runners' managers to get a strong field," said Kwan.
There are 17 gold label marathons this year - three in China.