Athletics: Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon could move from year-end to June date from 2021

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2019 saw the flag-off times of two categories shifted from their usual pre-dawn starts to 6pm. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) could move from its traditional December date to June from next year.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu told The Straits Times on Thursday (Jan 16) that this is being "talked about" and would be discussed with race organisers to see how it would fit in with the World Marathon Majors (WMM) series.

While the minister did not elaborate on the rationale for the possible date change, she said: "If we can establish that in the calendar, and if the other corporates, hotels and agencies are used to a certain timing, we can work towards de-conflicting better."

Last year's SCSM from Nov 30 to Dec 1 saw the flag-off times of the 42.195km marathon, 21.2km half-marathon and Ekiden relay shifted from their usual pre-dawn starts to 6pm on Nov 30 to boost its chances of being listed among the World Marathon Majors.

But this drew flak from the public after an unprecedented convergence of three other events resulted in some motorists being stuck in traffic snarls for over two hours. Couples holding wedding banquets in town also ran into issues as guests and vendors were unable to make it to the functions on time.

Speaking on the sidelines of the MCCY year-in-review 2019 media conference, Ms Fu said that "we really empathise with the people who have been inconvenienced" and that it was the first time that they were "doing it on such a scale in this location at such a time".

Stressing that it would be a "great opportunity" for Singapore to be part of the WMM, she pointed to the city's hosting of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix and how organisers took a few years to get the kinks ironed out.

"What I can commit to Singaporeans is that all the agencies and the organisers and ourselves, we are treating this event very seriously," she added. "We're looking at all the feedback closely, and we will do our utmost best to do better in the next series."

Responding to queries from ST, Geoff Meyer, managing director of Ironman Asia, which organises the SCSM, said: "The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon is the leading mass participation run and only IAAF Gold Label race in South-east Asia. In the last 18 years, the marathon has grown significantly, and we continue to take strides towards our goal of becoming an Abbott World Marathon Major, joining the likes of prestigious marathons around the world.

"We continue to look for ways to enhance the marathon across several aspects, and focus on the event festivities as well as programmes and initiatives that promote the running culture and community engagement in Singapore."

A spokesman for Sport Singapore said that they "are carefully studying the different options", adding that "we value all feedback and will work with our partners and stakeholders to build the SCSM into an event that Singapore can be proud of".

Soh Rui Yong, who won the Local Men's marathon title, said: "I think that June is possibly the worst time to hold the Singapore Marathon given that May and June are usually the hottest months of the year. This will heighten the risk of heat injuries.

"But I guess we can try one year and see what happens; maybe it's not as bad as I foresee it being!"

Gerald Gan, an adjunct lecturer in leisure and events management at the Singapore Institute of Management, said that "there is no good time" to hold the marathon unless it moves away from the city centre, stressing that better planning of logistics, timing and the route would help.

He added: "Unfortunately, there is no win-win. Someone has to compromise ultimately... it is about mitigating the amount of exposure in terms of all of these inconveniences to the public."

In her review, Ms Fu also pointed to the progress made in sport over the past year. More Singaporeans were engaged through its eight Active Health Labs and Active Health programmes and over 60,000 participants had signed up with the ActiveSG academies and clubs as of December 2019. There were more opportunities for persons with disabilities to play sports, with the opening of two inclusive gyms at Ang Mo Kio Community Centre and Jurong Lake Gardens, among other initiatives.

Sport Singapore's $3 million fund in 2019 to provide extended campaign support for athletes competing in major Games (2019-2020) also reaped rewards last year as Team Singapore returned from the Philippines SEA Games with its second-best away performance of 53 gold, 46 silver and 68 bronze medals. Of the 659 athletes who competed, 366 or 56 per cent were debutants and they contributed to nearly 40 per cent of the gold medals, said Ms Fu.

However, Singapore Athletics came under fire at the SEA Games post-mortem after a dismal outing and reports of discord within the squad. The under-22 footballers also made headlines when nearly half the squad broke curfew during the tournament, before bowing out at the group stage.

While 2019 was a successful year for Singapore sport, Ms Fu admitted that "there's so much more that we can do before we can really call ourselves a sporting country".

"But I would like to see that we have made progress and I think the direction is the right one," she added. "There's still some significant headroom for us to strive so we don't see this as an endpoint. It's definitely a work in progress and we'd like to see more Singaporeans supporting sports, believe in the values of sports, and participate actively in sports."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.