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The Hong Kong Marathon had a reduced field in 2021, but the plans for this year have yet to be finalised. Photo: Nora Tam

Hong Kong Marathon chiefs ‘hounding government every day to meet’ as clock ticks to save November race

  • Organisers ‘need to finalise all arrangements by mid-September – or it will be too late’, says chairman of the city’s athletics association
  • 10K championships cancelled last week after government imposed Covid-19 restrictions on eve of race, leaving Hong Kong sporting events under a cloud
The organisers of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon are running out of time to put the race on as planned in November and are continuing to call on the government to meet them, the head of the city’s athletics body has said.

With less than three months to go until the proposed marathon, Kwan Kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates (HKAAA), again urged the authorities to respond, after several events were left in limbo by Covid-19 restrictions being introduced at short notice.

“We’ve been hounding the government every day to meet with us, and give us the opportunity to explain our dilemma,” said Kwan Kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates (HKAAA). “I hope we can meet with the Chief Secretary [Eric Chan Kwok-ki] as soon as possible to get a better perspective.”

The Sun Hung Kai Properties Hong Kong 10K Championships were last week cancelled four days before the race after the government placed a last-minute cap of 500 on participant numbers, having previously approved 1,500 runners to take part. The same cap could apply to the Cross Harbour Swim on October 23.
Organisers of the marathon had hoped to double the size of the field from last year’s 18,500. Photo: Winson Wong

That left question marks over the viability of the Half Marathon Challenge on October 2 and the Hong Kong Marathon on November 20.

The HKAAA aims to have 37,000 runners for the marathon after last year’s reduced field of 18,500, but is awaiting approval from the government.

“For a mega sporting event like the Hong Kong Marathon, we need more than two months for runners to register,” Kwan said. “The logistics team, comprising contractors and sponsors, is waiting for our approval to proceed.

“How can we proceed after the 10K incident, if we don’t have the government’s approval? So I’m hoping to speak with Eric Chan as soon as possible, since we need to finalise all Hong Kong Marathon arrangements by mid-September – or it will be too late for us.”

Long-distance runner Crystal Vut Tsz-ying, last year’s women’s winner at the 10K, had intended to defend her title had the event taken place on Sunday.

After its cancellation, she said she was worried that the Half Marathon Challenge and the Hong Kong Marathon, both of which she was preparing to compete in, could suffer the same fate.

Hong Kong logs over 7,800 new Covid cases; concern grows over coming events

“I was really disappointed that the 10K was cancelled a few days beforehand – I thought the HKAAA had already fulfilled all pandemic requirements from the government,” Vut said.

The organisers required runners to have three vaccine doses and give a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before the race.

“I was still preparing for the 10K on Wednesday when I learned of the postponement,” Vut said. “After that abrupt shift interrupted my preparations, I’m worried that the Half Marathon Challenge would be a lost cause.”

Vut, who in September returned to full-time school teaching, last competed in June, at the Hong Kong Athletics Championships, in which she won the 10,000 metres, came second in the 1,500m and was third in the 5,000m.

“With full-time work and quarantine limitations, it is difficult for me to travel overseas to compete, so local competitions are vital to me,” she said. “Without those, I find it difficult to drive myself for training.”

Crystal Vut is concerned about local events being cancelled. Photo: Shirley Chui

The 1,000 places planned for the Half Marathon Challenge in Penny’s Bay were filled on its August 11 registration day. The organisers expect to have their plans reviewed by the government by mid-September at the latest.

The Hong Kong Trail Championships will still proceed on September 4 in Tai Mei Tuk, according to Kwan, with a maximum of 500 runners. Only about 200 had paid their entry fee so far, suggesting that the news about the 10K had an impact, he said.

“Runners will be concerned … and they will be hesitant to pay the fees,” he said. “But it is a selection race, and it is our obligation to host it even if the number of participants is lower than expected.”

Entrants will have the opportunity to qualify for the World Mountain & Trail Running Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in early November.