A blame game has begun in the aftermath of the Standard Chartered Marathon, which contrasts sharply with last Sunday's peaceful and jovial mood. Poor air quality has been cited as one of the major factors that made thousands of runners unwell, and for this the government and power companies have borne the brunt of criticism. More than 4,800 runners received medical treatment. Twenty-two were taken to hospital and one, Tsang Kam-yin, 53, has died. Sports experts and long-time competitors have blamed these mishaps on a lack of preparedness among many runners. The Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times has also listed the marathon's 'five crimes': the failure to warn participants about poor air quality, the failure to screen competitors for physical strength; the unsuitability of a section of the route; inadequate 'must-know' information; and the lack of fitness tests for participants aged 45 or above. The organisers have been criticised for seeking publicity by hosting an event at the expense of public health. Critics also pointed an accusing finger at the government for its lack of vigilance about the health risks and chaos. Calling for a serious review, the Chinese-language daily Ta Kung Pao warned of a stampede in view of the varying standards and quality of runners. In a seemingly knee-jerk reaction to public disquiet over the marathon, the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, the race's organisers, said it would consider imposing extra requirements on next year's event, including a limit on the number of participants. Understandably, the tragic death of a runner and the large number of people who fell ill has caused a stir in society at large about the potential health risk of long-distance running events. Fearful of a political backlash over the marathon controversy, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has acted swiftly. On Monday, he reportedly ordered a cross-policy bureau probe into the race's arrangements. This is likely to result in more rules and procedures for organisers and participants. Figures show that the annual event has become increasingly popular over the 10 years since it was first held. The number of participants has grown to 40,000 this year from 1,076 in 1996, with more corporate participation. Regular review of the arrangements is needed to cope with new problems. A sense of balance and proportion, however, ought to be maintained in the postmortem exercise. However poor the city's air quality, the solution lies not in advising people to stay at home and avoid exercise, but in putting pressure on the government and major polluters to do everything it takes to tackle air pollution. A unique feature of marathons is that while they challenge each participant's mental power and physical strength, there is also a sense of collectiveness and togetherness between the runners and the cheering crowd. Call it a carnival or a sports event, the marathon has been open to all regardless of their age or socio-political background - thus subjecting participants to the same set of rules and regulations. From tycoon to white-collar clerk, Canto-pop singer to accountant, all are driven by the same aspirations of testing their strength and sharing a sense of participation in a community-wide charity event. It is a great pity the Sunday marathon has been overshadowed by the tragic death of a runner and the row over whether poor air quality was to blame for the high number of people who needed medical treatment. The debate will remain inconclusive. Much has also been said about the gap in understanding between the government and people in general, particularly on issues like air pollution. Mr Tsang and his aides, including Environment Secretary Sarah Liao Sau-tung and Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping, should consider participating in next year's event, if only to get closer to the people who run the race.