Good Morning to all my friends,
Firstly, I am sorry that I have not updated you on my site while in New Zealand. It was not a lot of free time for me while at the 2011 World Championship between races and training. Another issue was the lack of internet connection at the hotel. In this message I will try to explain why the 2011 World Championships in New Zealand was the worst that I have ever attended – I have participated in two other World Championships prior to this one (Lille 02, and Assen 06).
The final event of the World Championships was suppose to be the marathon event on a flat 14 km looped course at the waterfront of the city of Christchurch.The day prior tot the marathon race (January 30) the event organizers decided to have a technical meeting which did not appear in any prior information to the nations. Some nations and especially some technical staff from my nation did not attend this technical meeting because of lack of information given to the nations concerning this important meeting. At this meeting the organizers informed the nations that the marathon will take place on a fully traffic road (no closure whatsoever). Many nations who attended the meeting was shocked by the information. Several countries warned the organizers and the IPC appointed Technical Director about the risks with an “open road” for the event. In addition to this the organizing committee and IPC TD was informed that this was not following the IAAF / IPC rules for marathon events. This rule clearly states that roads for marathon has to be completely closed to all traffic. Several countries raised concerns that they would be a possibility that they would not participate if the event took place on an “open” road, this had no impact on neither the organizing committee or IPC, the countries was informed that the event will take place no matter what. At the same time neither the organizing committee or IPC was willing to declare who was legally responsible in the case of an injury/accident occurred – what a fabulous answer?
Two nations (Canada and Great Britain) bravely decided not to take part in the event due to the safety concerns from their athletes. I am totally convinced that if all teams did not participate this event would completely implode the event (which would have been the most reasonable decisions for all involved). The organizers had 10 hours to fix the situation, but it was obvious that in their mind cancelling the marathon at the World Championships would have in been a scandal and it would have appeared in the worldwide media – so is the safety of the athletes less important, then looking bad as an organizing committee?
In Australian Newspaper “The Australian” published the next day an article with the headline “Golden Fearnley beats the traffic”. It also commented that that the racers in the 42k event (included that national hero and Paralympic Champion Kurt Fearnley) raced on an “open road” and an american racer Ryan Chalmers (see picture below) flipped himself over to avoid collision with a car and injured his shoulder.
It was sad to read in the same newspaper that it was a possibility that the same “open” road concept could happen in London in 2012? For me personally it was even more disappointed to listen to some racers informing me that the decisions taken by Canada and Great Britain made no sense. I feel it was a brave and risky decision made by these nations to ensure that their athlete was safe. I would really appreciate if some athletes stood up and not take part in this event and go beyond their own ego and start to fight for the best interest of the sport instead of being selfish especially when the risk for loss of human life is high. It is time for us athletes to start to analyzing the seriousness of situations like this and not even consider to take chances like this that in the future can create precedents for rule and safety violations as the one we saw at the marathon.
Honestly, I would personally refused to race under these circumstances, any athletes that claims that this race was under normal circumstances is because he/she would never seen Olympic athletes compete under similar conditions. I also read some comments of one athlete claiming that he trains in traffic so this was not really a big problem. Maybe we should listen to athletes from war zones around the world where training and running under gun fire is that a normal circumstance as well.
To finish this chapter of the marathon (there will be another chapter about the water, entries, transportation etc) I would like to mention the final sprint where the French athlete Denis Lemenier (appears in the picture below) crashed into the spectators due to the fact that barriers was missing to protect the spectators. I presume that this also due to the lack of communication of between the organizers, IPC, nations and athletes? Denis is still waiting for an explanation to what happened, at least he lives to tell.
Due to the incidents at the World Championships I cannot discuss all of this in one summary. I will write a second part shortly.
I have taken the decision not to race anymore with my national team until the situation with IPC changes dramatically (any regional race seems to be better organized then this spectacle). Remember this world championships was a celebration of one of New Zealand’s great athletes Graham Condor, who unfortunately was killed while training on the road in his hand cycle.
As a footnote; IPC have decided to investigate the incident – so they decided to investigate themselves??
Yours in Sport,