3,782 hit by timing glitch at Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore

Even till now, many Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore participants are still wrongly disqualified or have received inaccurate timings.
Even till now, many Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore participants are still wrongly disqualified or have received inaccurate timings.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

S'pore marathon event owner SSC says lessons to be learnt

Almost  4,000 participants at this year's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) were affected by a fault in the timing system, event organiser Spectrum Worldwide revealed yesterday.

According to a spokesman for the event management company, 3,782 runners - or 7 per cent of the 54,000-strong field - were either wrongly disqualified or received inaccurate timings as a result of the glitch.

This prompted event owner the Singapore Sports Council to call for "lessons to be learnt".

Labelling the glitch "unfortunate", its strategic development and marketing group chief Toh Boon Yi added that "we have expressed our concern to the organiser".

Confusion reigned at the end of Sunday's event, with Alex Ong and Derek Li, who finished second and sixth respectively in the Singapore men's category, disqualified owing to the technical fault.

It is understood that the electronic timing system provided by ChronoTrack failed to detect certain runners as they crossed the various checkpoints.

Said the Spectrum spokesman: "With respect to the timing issues, the same system and operator have been deployed for the past two editions of the SCMS.

"The system is also utilised in many other major local and international running events, including the New York City Marathon."

Ong and Li have since had their positions reinstated, following an investigation into their appeals.

But many of the other 3,780 affected runners have taken to the event's Facebook page to point out that their revised results that were posted online are still inaccurate.

"How can my gun time and net time be almost the same when I started in second wave, with huge congestion?" one Ivan Ho posted.

Gun time refers to the duration between flag-off and the time a runner crosses the finishing line.

But it can take mass run participants several minutes to reach the start line; in these cases, the net time, or the time they take to get from the start point to the finish point, is a more accurate measure of performance.

Addressing the complaints, the Spectrum spokesman confirmed that the timings are still subject to change.

"The investigation is ongoing to identify the root cause and further refinements will be made to the results if necessary," he said.

He went on to express regret that "some aspects of this year's SCMS did not run as smoothly as planned" on the company's first shot at organising Singapore's largest mass running event.

Founded in 1992, Singapore-based Spectrum has been involved in race operations since 2007, before being awarded sole control in July.

While SSC's Toh acknowledged that Spectrum made "every effort to reconcile the situation in the fairest manner possible", it remains to be seen if this year's hiccup will affect the race's Gold Label billing.

In 2011, the Singapore race was accorded the International Association of Athletics Federations' Gold Label tag, placing it alongside other illustrious events like the Boston and Berlin marathons.

To attain the status, a race has to feature a required number of elite runners, meet doping control requirements, and have a fully equipped media centre and television coverage in at least five different countries.

IAAF competition commission member Maurice Nicholas believes that the timing glitch is unlikely to prove detrimental to that tag.

"It's more dependent on how the race is organised and the number of participants involved," he told The Straits Times.

Race participants, on the other hand, remain less forgiving with their remarks on Facebook.

"International race, substandard resources," wrote Gerald Chang.

Johan van Binnendijk, a native of Utrecht in the Netherlands, added: "Hard to believe that this is Singapore's major sports event."