It was completely unexpected, and was pretty much ‘Black Monday’ for runners who had registered for the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM) 2015. The annual marathon, the highlight of running events in Malaysia, had been scheduled for Sunday 4 October 2015, and all 35,000 places were sold out within 4 days back in May. Yesterday afternoon, SCKLM announced that the marathon would be postponed to Saturday, 10 October 2015. And the reason?
“The [Standard Chartered KL Marathon] event was postponed on the request of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to be aligned with the inaugural National Sports Day.” (This is part of a statement made by the SCKLM Facebook administrators in the comments section of its Facebook announcement. The bold emphasis is ours.)
Sure, the organisers reserve the right to change the date of the event, but this was not due to haze (which was the case in 2013) or some other logistical circumstance; it was apparently because the Ministry wanted a sell-out event to coincide with the inaugural ‘National Sports Day’ which was to fall on October 10, 2015, so that it could be the ‘Flagship Marathon of [the] First Ever National Sports Day’.
We’re not kidding – take a look at the press statement issued by the Ministry, which was uploaded by SCKLM to their Facebook page.
The words speak for themselves.
In addition, we can’t help but feel particularly disappointed at this statement at the beginning of the 5th paragraph: “It’s very significant to have the support of the 35,000 runners.”
– NO, Ministry, the 35,000 are not supporting you; they were supporting the event that you hijacked!
That is, if SCKLM will still have 35,000 for the new race date.
Runners, incensed at having a major sporting event annexed by politicians to boost an agenda they did not sign up for, vented out their frustration on social media.
The issues are clear:
- The first thing that would come to mind for outstation and overseas participants – “we have already made travel plans, and booked flights and hotels!” – and this National Sports Day thing certainly doesn’t sound like the best of reasons for a postponement. Yes, SCKLM has set up registration transfer and refund procedures, but of course they won’t reimburse anything more than your registration fees and add-on charges such as mailing options or insurance taken via the marathon registration.
- You may have noticed that the new date is a Saturday, and a Saturday morning, at that! People work on Saturdays, and not everyone can apply for leave easily. People living outside the city need time to travel (the Full Marathon flags off at 4.30am) so travel plans will eat into Friday. So much for productivity.
- There are at least 9 to 10 other run-related events happening on the weekend of October 10-11 which participants may have signed up for. This includes a popular annual triathlon. At the time of writing at least one event, the Petzl Trail Night Run, has announced that its event has been moved from October 10 to October 31 “due to Malaysians [celebrating] the National Sport Day as announced by the Ministry of Youth and Sports”. Will there be more postponements for the other events? See the havoc this is starting to cause?
- Road closures for the marathon will now take place on a Saturday which is a work day for many, and otherwise a generally busy day of the week in the city. Some roads will probably need to start closing on Friday night. This is going to be a major inconvenience to commuters in an already congested city.
- Since refunds will be offered, many local runners may choose to get their money back and ‘take their business elsewhere’ (One of the other 9 or more events? Provided those events don’t change their dates!), or choose not to associate themselves with the SCKLM due to the perceived political interference. An observation of comments in social media in the aftermath of yesterday’s announcement may well be showing an inclination towards ‘boycotting’ SCKLM by pulling out and getting a refund.
- This sets a bad precedent, and certainly isn’t doing any favours for Malaysia as a running destination. Would you sign up for a marathon in the future after an experience where you signed up for the event months in advance, and made preparations, only to be told that the date will be changed because some government officials thought it was a good idea to use the event as a tie-in for some local agenda? Apart from being plain inconsiderate, such a move clearly undermines any aspiration that was had for the ‘National Sports Day’.
On SCKLM’s Facebook page, commenter Roxie Hart stated,
“The fact that the Ministry requested this change shows they have no idea about what planning for such an event entails for runners. The fact that the organisers agreed to the request, what can I say???? KL is definitely off the international running calendar for me.”
Were the organisers under duress to change the date? A reading of the posts on SCKLM’s Facebook page gives the impression that they pretty much had no choice but to agree to the change and hope for the best. Did the Ministry think this was like changing the date of a school sports day? If they wanted the SCKLM so badly as part of their festivities, one wonders why they didn’t consider changing the date of ‘National Sports Day’, or, as some have indicated, have a ‘National Sports Week’ that would include the Sunday before (i.e. the marathon’s original date)? Meanwhile, the marathon’s administrators, social media admins and communications staff are left with the stress of having to deal with the aftermath of the decision.
Commenter Benjamin Ong probably summed up the sentiments of many when he wrote, also on SCKLM’s Facebook page,
“Standard Chartered KL Marathon, you are an utter disgust and embarassment to all your 35,000 runners by selling ALL OF US out to some dumb-witted policitians who barely use their pea-sized brains (or even lack of it). Realise that there are other events clashing on that weekend and others have signed up for it. Realise that there are people working on Saturday and can’t make it unless it is a night run. Realise that you are now being seen as some mongrels who would easily bow to politicians to get into their good books and get favours. Realise that you will most certainly cause monetary losses for thousands who are travelling here in terms of their flight and hotel bookings. …”
MP for Serdang, Dr Ong Kian Ming, who is an avid runner, plans to hold a press conference on Wednesday July 15, 2015 at the Lake Gardens, and invites runners to attend to ask for the SCKLM to be brought back to its original date of October 4, 2015.
More details are available at the associated Facebook page ‘Bring SCKLM Back to October 4: Stop Politicising Sporting Events’.
The reasons for the postponement of the SCKLM 2015 are unacceptable. Full stop.
(Ed: A few days after this blogpost, it was announced that the SCKLM 2015 date would revert to October 4th, after taking into account the objections raised by runners. See our follow-up blogpost on this, together with a follow-up comic!)