opportunity knocks and Wheel of Fortune were popular TV shows in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s. The Wheel of Fortune was spun for the Cape Town Marathon using Abbott’s standards, as well as the Paralympian’s expertise and spinning wheels in wheelchair from South Africa, Ernst van Dyk.
All major Abbott marathons have a wheelchair division, which requires the use of quality roads and surfaces. This eventually forced Cape Town city authorities to review their traffic flow measures.
Authority and empires
Even a decade ago, in the Nedbank Race series, authorities insisted, no matter how prestigious the event, runners must use the pavement and boardwalk along Somerset and Beach Roads.
These paths are not only uneven, but cluttered with terminals, signs and other street furniture which unnecessarily increase the risk of serious and massive races.
I vividly remember a national championship restricted to the Beach Road pavement with the lead runners forced to run on either side of a bus stop where the shortest route was reduced to a width of 1.5 meter between a garbage can and a bus shelter. Runners splitting on the other side risked running into outgoing runners. The authorities would not budge.
It took nine years of Cape Marathons for the city to discover that it can, like London, Boston, New York, Chicago, Vienna, Rome, Melbourne, Bangkok and just about every other major city traffic authority in the world, managing to have two-way traffic on the other side of a two-lane road.
They also managed to remove an inconvenient and ridiculously steep arch bridge as the goal of the marathon is to show off the city.
Cape Town Traffic is to be commended for successfully managing these marathon changes, including start and finish positions on previously unthinkable main roads.
Road finishing is well established around the world, and in recent years by the South African NMBM races and the Run Your City series.
The insistence of events like Two Oceans, Comrades and others on ending in one location may reflect a lack of understanding by authorities, stakeholders and the community that ownership and cooperation, rather than governance issues. empire and control, are the building blocks of big city events. . The success of these global events lives on throughout the city that “owns” the race and enjoys the many marketing, financial, reputational and community building gains that come with it.
Parts of Cape Town Road have yet to adopt and accept this role as some residents continue to use the parking lot where no stop signs are erected and then open the doors or leave while the wheelchairs run along the road at more than 40 km/h!
No perfect event
The organization was not without flaw; no event is!
Some basics such as the disproportionate amount and proportion of water compared to the sponsor’s product, almost insignificant mileage marks, personal drink tables and even just a clock at the finish which, because it differed from the 10 km previous and of the 10 km of Saturday, the runners took for a mark not the end.
It also underscored that 10k/5k races cannot continue like the poor daughter-in-law of the main event, but rather require special, unique and major road routes that engage the local community, spouses, families and even marathon runners to participate and create the special celebration. These events are marketed as features and should live up to that status.
Some 6,000 misclassified runners and walkers huddled along a promenade cluttered with seats and bollards, which has been used by virtually every race in the area, really isn’t enough.
One of the characteristics of events held in big cities is that the marathon weekend is the unique opportunity for runners to run in specific areas of the city. It increases participation, ambiance and community support, which most South African cities have failed to identify. Special or unique places such as Masabalala Yenga Ave, Promenade, Sea Point, etc. are overused to the point of boredom.
A previous Witness column, (Save Our Sport – SOS) felt that there are too many meets, in too few weeks, using too few routes, with too few runners to create attraction, value and sustainability, not to mention growth.
Despite just over 9,000 marathon runners and 5,000 finishers over 10 km, the experience of Cape Town confirms the trend.
Only 28% of the 13,000 marathon runners came from Gauteng, 5.8% from KZN and 4.4% from the Eastern Cape province, with the remaining provinces being less than 2%. Surprisingly, over 30% of participants failed to show or complete the marathon.
Typically Gauteng has contributed over 60% to other major road racing events, and post Covid a higher percentage of registered participants finish.
Finances, plane tickets, hotel costs have a negative impact, but many organizers remain skeptical of this challenge.
Two Oceans has opened the first entries to keen participants with blue numbers, with organizers expecting 16,000 for the 21km and 13,000 for the 56km.
Oceans only hit these numbers pre-Covid on their 50th anniversary special, and if they are hit, they will be totally out of step with current global and South African trends. Budgeting and implementing on such numbers risks an even higher loss than the 2022 R3 million.
Updated match rosters doing the rounds confirm several major event clashes and compel the provincial administration to urgently accept the new normal.
The opportunity presents itself
The unique selling point of this TV show was that it was the audience that voted for the progress of the contestants. Our sporting public needs to recognize these warning signs.
Central Gauteng updated its clubs this weekend by publishing new provincial racing regulations and procedures, and proposed measures to prevent open club/group racing from undermining racing.
The opportunity presents itself to the organizers of the KZN race this weekend during the symposium scheduled for Saturday at PMB. Everything points to a need for change, an updated race package, restrictions on the number and location of events and the redefinition of different racing and group racing standards.
Opportunity rarely knocks twice. Symposium participants will need to be diligent and open-minded to spin the KZNA wheel of fortune.
Anything resembling the status quo can be a fatal blow – the level of innovative change introduced by Ernst van Dyk and the authorities in Cape Town can do great things.