S'pore Marathon organisers apologise for 'inconveniences' as debate erupts between critics and supporters

The crowd at Raffles Boulevard heading to the F1 Pit Building for the starting line of the marathon on Nov 30, 2019. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Organisers of the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) have issued an apology for the traffic jams that ensnared the city centre last Saturday evening (Nov 30), leading to vitriolic and widespread complaints from those affected.

In a Facebook post addressed to "members of the public" at 11.15pm on Wednesday, it thanked them for their feedback about the traffic conditions and said: "We have read all your comments and feedback, and we apologise for the inconvenience caused."

On Thursday, Lim Teck Yin, chief executive of national sports agency Sport Singapore, issued a reply to letters in The Straits Times' Forum section in which he also apologised for those "caught off guard and inconvenienced by the traffic impasse". He added that organisers would "incorporate this year's lessons for subsequent races".

Organisers explained that the planning for a night race was "a year in the making, with an extensive stakeholder outreach programme which began in January". This included traffic studies that mapped alternative routes and "extensive road advisories" which were disseminated via media outlets alongside SCSM's digital channels.

The disruption created by the annual event this year was in large part due to the change in its start times, when it moved from a pre-dawn start to an evening flag-off. The swop was a key part of its bid to become an Abbott World Marathon Major (WMM), a series of the world's most prestigious 42km races which annually attract thousands of the world's best runners for its six races.

In his letter, Lim explained that the shift in timing was to enable more Singaporeans to join the event. He noted that spectatorship grew this year, with more than 100,000 people coming out to cheer the runners on and he remained confident that "in the years to come, the meaningfulness of the event will grow as Singaporeans embrace SCSM".

The ruckus has sparked a fierce debate on the race's official Facebook page, between those who were outraged by the disruptions and those who back the marathon in its bid to become "a race for Singapore" and put the focus sharply on Singapore's sporting culture, or lack thereof.

Pauline Lim wrote: "Marathons are good, but it shouldn't cause considerable inconvenience to others. Pls don't say it's just once a year. Imagine your big day being terribly disrupted by the blockage and jams. How would you feel?"

However, others hit back by saying that information about the road closures was made public weeks before.

Tyra Wates wrote: "Seems all my friends and family knew about the road closures and made a point not to go near the area."

Andrew To also felt the organisers had nothing to apologise for.

He wrote: "Stop apologising to those self-entitled Singaporeans, they have been warned way earlier from the organizers, Singapore Police Force and LTA regarding road closures.

"I am not a participant but I know the area I should avoid, they pay no mind about it and complain when they hit the traffic jam, also it's just one weekend and they complain as if their families are in grave danger, many Singaporeans complain at the slightest inconvenience and always tend to exaggerate issues many folds... they have all the time to jump on social media to complain yet not take a minute to check the traffic condition during a major event, it's on them."

Several called for more patience and tolerance as Singapore's sporting leaders seek to put the footrace on the world map, much like how the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, which also had its fair share of critics in its initial years, has grown to become an iconic event on the sport's calendar.

Choon Lee Liew said: "This is a sports event, world class or on the way there, it is inevitable there will be some inconveniences, especially in traffic in a city state like Singapore."

Matthew Sum agreed, noting: "Truth be told, anything that we do will come at an inconvenience or sacrifice of something else.

"Training for a full marathon week in and week out takes such sacrifice and definitely inconveniences in our lives.

"Similarly, organising a nation wide event is the same and I applaud your grit in pushing this through.

"Building a sporting culture is not easy especially in our small and tight city. Sharing our roads and paths safely always falls back on our kindness and consideration."

The debate follows several that have erupted in recent years over "inconveniences" sparked by sporting events.

Last year, two of the floodlights at Yishun Stadium were suddenly turned off during an Under-19 football match, causing the match to be abandoned. While local sports governing body Sport Singapore (SportSG) ultimately took responsibility for the incident, news reports said the move to turn off the lights had been prompted by complaints of light pollution from residents of a nearby condominium.

In 2017, usage of the two main football pitches at the Home United Youth Football Academy in Mattar Road was restricted, following complaints about noise levels from residents who live in the neighbourhood.

Eventually, one of the facility's main tenants, football academy JSSL Singapore, relocated to The Arena in Woodleigh Park.

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