Organisers of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon cut short a tense post-race press conference on Sunday in Victoria Park, after media members repeatedly asked questions about runners being refused entry for wearing clothing adorned with the words “Hong Kong”, and being asked to change or cover up the words with tape. Local media reported multiple instances of registered participants being turned away for such contraventions, with one runner telling HKC News she was kicked out during security checks in the starting area. A photo of her shorts showed the words “Hong Kong” printed in a font similar to that used by the pro-democracy movement. Some runners displaying Hong Kong flags were not asked to change clothes or cover them up. The issue was a hot topic among gathered reporters when Hong Kong Marathon organising committee chairman William Ko Wai-lam addressed them at midday following the conclusion of the event. Ko opened by reading a brief statement, saying, “the Standard Chartered Marathon is a sporting event, it should not have any political element”. Media members continued to ask questions asking what was political about the words “Hong Kong”, and whether the decision to ban them was made by the Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates (HKAAA), the marathon organisers or the government. Hong Kong marathon runners complete race in ‘new normal’ But Ko began his response to all of the questions by repeatedly saying: “I have already said this very clearly”, before repeating his opening statement. When asked about the specific number of people who wore items of clothing that were deemed unsuitable, and whether any had been reported to the police, Ko did not answer directly, though he said he had not received any further statistics, and would release them if he did. Reporters asked again why “Hong Kong add oil” or similar slogans were deemed uncomfortable or objectionable, and if there would be clothing checks at future marathons. “Each time there is an event, we will evaluate accordingly for the event,” Ko said. One media member asked if the event in future would be renamed “the Standard Chartered Marathon” with the words Hong Kong removed. When she asked Ko why runners could not wear clothing saying Hong Kong if they are from the city, Ko replied: “I have not heard anything about this, but if they are from Hong Kong, I think they can say Hong Kong,” which prompted further questions. A public relations official became involved, saying “this question has been answered several times by Mr Ko ... if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask them”. When media members persisted to ask about slogans, the official abruptly ended the press conference. Organisers had warned runners this week against breaking the law with political slogans , and were told they would bear full responsibility for doing so, in what was the city’s first mass-participation sporting event of the national security era. The field for the event, which was cancelled in 2020 and postponed this year because of Covid-19 restrictions, was reduced by 75 per cent from 74,000 entries to 18,500 with no invited overseas runners. The race had not been run since the 2019 anti-government protests, and the implementation of the National Security Law, which criminalises any act of secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign or external forces. There was a notable police presence around Victoria Park throughout the morning, with several officers placed at every exit point. Answering the only question not related to clothing, Ko said organisers would conduct a review after a bottleneck occurred at the Western Harbour Tunnel for runners of the half- and full marathons. Earlier at the press conference, Hong Kong Marathon medical director Dr Lam Kin-kwan said there were around 445 injuries during Sunday’s event, with most of the race held in cool conditions. The Hospital Authority confirmed that as of 2pm a total of 20 people, including 19 men and one woman aged between 20 and 87, had been hospitalised. One is in critical condition, six are considered in a serious condition, while six are described as being in a stable condition. The rest have been allowed to leave hospital. Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates (HKAAA) chairman Kwan Kee said 38,000 people had signed up online for the event, but organisers had to restrict entry to 18,500 because of government regulations. He said that 15,600 runners overall took part on Sunday. “Although there was a shortage of overseas elite runners, we still showed our local elite level,” Kwan said. “Hong Kong’s athletes can be proud of their achievements.” Fifty four men completed the men’s marathon in under three hours, while 21 women finished in less than three and a half hours, according to Kwan.