PETALING JAYA: Ong Kian Ming wants more accountability for the cancellation of the Malaysia Marathon 2017 from Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz.
Referring to the announcement online on Tuesday that the event scheduled for Oct 1 was not going to take place, the Serdang MP said such a last-minute cancellation deserves more answers.
“The last-minute cancellation of running events is not a new occurrence in Malaysia.
“It has happened many times before which is why I presented the results of a survey of Malaysian runners to Khairy’s ministry, via his deputy, M Saravanan in parliament on Aug 1 2017.
“But this last-minute cancellation raises a few questions which needs to be answered by Khairy and Nazri because both their ministries are listed as the organisers of the Malaysia Marathon 2017, together with DBKL and Wisdom Sports (M) Sdn Bhd,” Ong said in a statement today.
On Tuesday, a statement posted on the Wisdom Sports website and Malaysia Marathon Facebook page said the company had to cancel the marathon due to “unforeseen circumstances which would have impacted the overall event quality”.
The statement added the company would refund the fees paid by participants within 30 days of the cancellation. The company requested those who had registered for the event to send an email to them if they did not receive their refund by Oct 15.
On Thursday, Nazri was reported to have said that the reason for the cancellation was that the main organiser, Wisdom Sports, had failed to fulfill its promise of bringing 5,000 participants from China.
According to Nazri, the minimum number of participants from China required was stipulated in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed last May.
“The organisers failed to meet the target. When we went to Beijing last May, there was an MoU that was signed, witnessed by me and also by the athletic association of China.
“They were supposed to bring 5,000 from China. But because they failed to meet the target, the organisers felt it was best to cancel the event,” Nazri was quoted as saying by The Star, on the event which was part of the Belt and Road initiative, aimed at promoting cultural exchanges between China and Malaysia.
Howvever, Ong contends that the burden especially lay on Khairy, who as the minister in charge of sports, would have had to sign off on the event organiser’s proposal for the event in the country.
“Section 33 of the Sports Development Act 1997 states that ‘no person shall bid to host any international sports competition or event in Malaysia without the prior approval in writing of the Minister whose decision thereon shall be final’.
“Since his ministry was listed as one of the organisers for this event and the international nature of this event involving so many Chinese runners requires his approval, therefore Khairy should state if he did indeed sign-off on this race,” Ong said.
He added that Khairy should now explain to the public what sort of assurances his ministry was given that the race would not be cancelled if there were an insufficient number of participants from China.
“Did the ministry not think about the welfare of the Malaysian runners who had signed up for this race, some of whom had booked train, bus and plane tickets to travel to KL from other states to participate in this race?
“The minister should know that even for established marathons with more than 40,000 participants such as the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon and the Penang Bridge International Marathon, the number of foreign participants is far less than 5,000, what more for a race that was supposed to attract only 20,000 participants,” Ong said.
Event did not meet sporting standards
He added that it would also be shocking if Khairy had indeed signed off on the event despite it not meeting international sporting standards as required by Section 34 of the Sports Development Act 1997.
“The organisers had failed to publish the details of the route for the 42km, 21km and 10km races, and also did not state the amount of prize money and other prizes for the 42km, 21km and 10km races.
“Wisdom Sports had also initially ‘mislabelled’ the run as being certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF),” Ong said.
Coming less than a month before the event date has understandably upset many local runners who took out their anger on the Malaysia Marathon 2017 website and Facebook page, since the cancellation announcement was made on Sept 5.
A runner from Sarawak said: “Total disappointment, registration fee can be refunded, but what about the flight ticket bought? My friends and I are the outstation runners. We’re looking for reasonable explanation here.”
Another local runner wrote on Facebook of the red flags that were clear signs not to register for the event.
“My friend said from the very beginning the event sounds fishy. SCKLM (the Kuala Lumpur Marathon) had just ended and suddenly there is another so-called ‘major’ Malaysia marathon. Sounds fishy, organiser is fishy too. Then you see them extending the early-bird period, etc. Good thing I didn’t register, this is just a money-making scheme.”
Even foreigners residing in Malaysia weighed in online on the last-minute cancellation.
“Another organiser hiding behind the ‘unforeseen circumstances’ banner. I am so pleased I refused to join this event due to their highly inflated foreign runner entry fees,” James Willis, a British national living in Banting, Selangor, wrote on Facebook.