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    Qatar marathon organizers apologize after runners lament event setup

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    Mega Marathon start line
    Mega Marathon start line

    Many runners who took part in the Qatar Mega Marathon on Friday as part of an attempt to be break a world record complained of poor organization and safety issues, as some who participated sported slippers and flip-flops.

    The event, which was in fact a half-marathon with a 21.1km route along the National Day Ceremonial Road near Izghawa in north Doha, had originally been set to take place on Feb. 6 in time for National Sport Day, but was postponed and rescheduled for March 27.

    Organizers aimed to get some 50,000 people to take part to beat the Guinness World Record for the largest number of runners competing in a single marathon, a title currently held by the US.

    Speaking to Doha News, a representative said they rallied around 33,000 runners, and so did not manage to beat the record. Some who participated in the event, however, said no more than a few thousand showed up.

    Complaints

    After the event, many runners posted on the marathon’s official Facebook page, complaining of chaotic management, poor distribution of race packs and refreshments and a late start, which meant the race did not begin until 2pm, in the heat of the day.

    One of the water stations at the Mega Marathon.
    One of the water stations at the Mega Marathon.

    Writing on one of the event’s Facebook pages, Erick Reyes said:

    too exhausted and too tired but despite of the obstacles i tried to finish the race only to discover that there was nobody on the officials table, no organizer, no medals for finisher, and to think that there were timing devices on our numbers..what are we supposed to do..no one explain it to us…very disappointing…”

    One runner who contacted Doha News after the event described the marathon as “one of the most disorganized and chaotic events I have ever had the displeasure of attending.”

    That participant observed hundreds of men who appeared to be laborers, wearing jeans, flip-flops or running barefoot.

    “Others were forced to walk several kilometers before the organizers obviously realized they would not finish, and so they were loaded back into their busses and sent away,” the runner said.

    Other runners raised safety issues, saying police removed road blocks while people were still participating in the race.

    Some participants wearing sandals
    Some participants wearing sandals

    Transportation also appeared to be an issue. Organizers of the event, which took place in collaboration with Al Sadd Sports Club, had planned to provide free buses to encourage people to take part.

    But pickup did not function smoothly, according to another participant who contacted Doha News. That person said they ended up getting a taxi to the event, adding:

    “The worst part of all was that there was a large mass of laborers wearing jeans, flip flops and no proper running equipment… Some laborers tried to leave but were turned back and were yelled at that they need to stay and cross the line.”

    Apologies

    In response to complaints, one of the key organizers of the event, Mega Gonzales Cervantes, posted a public apology on Facebook to those who took part.

    “On behalf of Volunteering Team, we are very sorry that we have failed your expectations.We understand your disappointment and appreciate the inconvenience this must have caused you. Please be informed that the principal Organizer will get back to you and answer all your questions shortly.”

    Addressing specific issues, a representative told Doha News that appropriate running clothing and shoes had been given to all participants, but that he couldn’t force runners to wear them.

    He said traffic police had asked them to push back the start time of the race from 1pm to 2pm, and that they only allowed the route to be closed to traffic for a maximum of three hours.

    “I had prepared 400,000 bottles of water for the runners, but they stopped us giving (all of) them out. I apologize for any inconvenience to anybody… we were not 100 percent pleased with how the event went. It needs to be improved if we are to consider doing it again in the future,” he added.

    Qatar has hosted numerous sporting events in recent years which have had mixed success. Most spectators who went to the handball championships in January applauded the organizers for a slick operation, and Doha’s first 5km Color Run the following month was also well-planned.

    However, some events have been criticized by spectators for poor organization, including the Real Madrid versus Paris Saint-Germain match which took place in Khalifa International Stadium in January last year, which attracted 40,000 to watch. Similar complaints were raised at the Spain – Uruguay game, also at Khalifa, in February 2013, when fans complained about chaotic parking and long lines to get in to the stadium.

    Thoughts?

    Lesley Walker
    Lesley Walker is a journalist with Doha News. Prior to moving to Qatar in 2012, she worked in London as a reporter and sub-editor for national newspapers and news agencies. Lesley has a post-graduate diploma in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University/University of Strathclyde and an MA in International Relations from University of St Andrews, UK.

    78 COMMENTS

    1. ‘Poor organisation, unsafe practices, more interest in style than substance, in Qatar’.

      In other startling news, bears found to defecate in the woods, the Pope confirmed to be a Catholic, ……

    2. Why am I not surprised? Honestly, this happens so often, it can be a race, a concert or something else….amateurs! That happens when people involved have no idea of what they are doing…..amateurs!!!

        • Come on, Qatar’s record of chaotic organisation, unfulfilled promises (medal, certificate), lax or non-existant safety procedures (exemplified by the Vilaggio tragedy) is well recorded.

          I mean, they couldn’t even get the Asian Cup right. For the avoidance of doubt, and with the World Cup next up, you only let someone in if they have a ticket for the event, not a dish-dash and an attitude. The tournament was pretty chaotic throughout, but the final topped the lot. It was almost as if nothing had been learned during the tournament itself.

          Money/bribes can buy you the ‘right’ to host the World Cup and pay for flashy new stadiums, but money can’t buy competence.

    3. When other countries do it, they do it with professional organizing and getting people who are actually enthusiastic to participate in the event.

      Like numerous events here, the police, the organizers and other parties involved have zero co-operation and each one have act on their own. When the police didn’t allow the roads to be closed before 2 pm, and asked the event to be completed in 3 hrs, weren’t this discussed beforehand with the police? That is where the organizing power and co-operation between multiple departments come into place. Its a huge task in itself to organize such an event, and to get 50,000 people to run together at the same event is a humongous task. Now you know these events are not to be conducted by amateurs. Just ‘coz you have the money to back such an event, it can not just happen.

      I pity the labors who were “forced” to participate in the event (just like all the league football matches here), to increase the number of participants.

    4. Qatar and their vanity projects…..what a predictable disgrace. And the poor laborers get the raw end of the deal once again.

      • hahaha… the top comment reads:
        ‘the team had a “brilliant strategy in the operational plan” to pull in the crowd’
        I guess this will involve lots of buses from the Industrial Area and security at each exit point to stop participants from leaving except through the finish line.”

        I shouldnt laugh though, how can the organizers think its good to force anyone to do a marathon?

    5. And to think with all their wealth they could do a decent job in coordinating an event of this scale .. and that too trying to break a world record forcing laborers to join ..

    6. The problem with the organizers is that they’ve lost sight of what the event should really be for. They’ve just ruined an event, by aiming too high.

      Let people enjoy the marathon, beating the world record should only be the icing in the cake.

      Frankly, the organizers should be kicked out for distorting the essence of the event / marathon and making it an embarrassment to all.

    7. There were two other community sporting events at the weekend: The Staircase run at Aspire and the Pearl Qatar Triathlon. These should be the benchmarks for good community sporting events in Qatar!

    8. If the photo is of the actual race start line then the only people I see with race numbers are what appear to be workers from the industrial area in frickin’ long pants. Now for one, NO ONE runs a marathon in long pants. Two, this just seems to be some stunt to get some world record crap. I’d like to say I’m surprised but I can’t. Ridiculous is all I can think of.

      “On behalf of Volunteering Team, we are very sorry that we have failed your expectations.We understand your disappointment and appreciate the inconvenience this must have caused you. Please be informed that the principal Organizer will get back to you and answer all your questions shortly.”- LOL

    9. This happens when Qatari’s pay tons of money to amateur foreign organizers just because they are “foreign” yet they forget that they have no clue about the particulars of this country!

    10. I should not smile …. but…..“The worst part of all was that there was a large mass of laborers wearing jeans, flip flops and no proper running equipment… Some laborers tried to leave but were turned back and were yelled at that they need to stay and cross the line.”

    11. Qatar can produce Stadiums but cant run the World Cup unless get foreign organizers. What do you think of the locals, they will pour their sweat to make the event happen. Kahliwallih.

      See only 30,000 people on a single event they cant manage. how about 300,000 of world cup.

    12. I was one of those runners who joined the event in my own
      will, the event was poorly organized and
      executed.

      There are plenty of waters, medics, supporting volunteers on
      the bike, which are the only good things about the event, special thanks to all
      volunteers

      Apart from that…

      Having people from all backgrounds together for a half marathon
      run is good, but invite people with no intention of finishing the half marathon
      is demeaning and shame to the organizer.

      During the run, there are police cars/ ambulance sometimes
      driving at speed close to the runners, and there are a lot of people running
      with jeans, slippers and all sort of inappropriate clothing for half marathon

      The saddest thing I seen is that the cut-off time is just
      under three and a half hours, not ‘three to five hours’ as advertised. I have
      seen a lot of participants been forced to run on the side walk as the Traffic
      Police aim to ‘take over’ the road. The finish banner was taking off at 6pm
      sharp. I do feel sorry for those who cannot completed the half marathon.

      • Spot on, mate. As soon as the three winning Kenyan men crossed the finish, they gave them their medals, got them up on the podium for a nice photo to share with the media, and then started to pack up the event. The organisers were gone before any of the non-competitive runners crossed the finish. Such a shame, because it could have been a really fun event if done properly.

    13. It started at 2pm with majority of the “runners” were wearing jeans, slippers, safety shoes. It was so hot. The air was thin, the water was hot, the road was hot. The race pack (it was not even packed because you need to get it separately) I got was just a shirt, a cap, and a loot bag – that’s it! I was so tired before I even reached half of the distance but I still finished the race so exhausted with burning feet and aching body because I was expecting a medal but when I reached the finish line after 3 hours & 25 minutes, they were already disassembling everything. I was really disappointed. The email everyone received said that will be a medal for the finishers but what we got was just sunburn and aching body. There is no certificate either. there is no question about the water, there was plenty of water – they were just hot.

    14. Something is fishy here… The organizer was not state sponsored or authorized even by the ministry of sports and youth which usually signs off on these things… Also QF did not back this event and it seems Al sadd club was only used as a meeting point..

      Mega Gonzales Cervantes planned this event which is affliated with Mega World what I think is a spainish real estate firm.. Both only have a Facebook page and no real website…

      My guess some bs PR firm tried to pull a huge PR stunt on behalf of a real estate firm in hope it’ll successed in putting Qatar in the Guinness world book of records… But failed miserably..

      Also not the event was pushed from official sports day since it was not state sponsored.. Do we even know if officials from Guinness world book of records were present ??

      I’ll google this up and come back shortly

      • Nevermind forget what I said Mega Gonzales Cervantes is a real person… And the event was hosted in coordination with Al SADD CLUB.. Not sure if it was approved by the right authority or not.. Such a shame ..really really shameful

        • The event was held under the patronage of the Emir’s brother. Doesn’t get much higher than that.

          Al Sadd Sports Club launched the huge sporting event ‘Qatar Mega Marathon’ under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, Chairman of Al Sadd Sports Club.

          http://www.gulf-times.com/sport/192/details/423292/sadd-launches-%E2%80%98qatar-mega-marathon%E2%80%99-with-an-eye-on-guinness-world-record

          This awkward quote sums up more than what had been hoped for:
          “Al-Rumaihi said: “The idea behind organising ‘Qatar Mega Marathon’ is to send a message to the whole world presenting Qatar’s ability to challenge and create miracles. Therefore, we accept the challenge through ‘Qatar Mega Marathon’ to reflect the true image of the State of Qatar to the whole world and to prove that Qatar is the region’s sports capital.” “

            • Really? I’ve never read a more honest quote from the Gulf Times.

              It’s just a pity the quote was meant to prove competence, ability, trustworthiness etc, rather than accurately reflect what actually happens.

              I just hope that at some point someone up top has an epiphany and realizes “hey, all this self congratulatory BS is not helping, it just looks embarrassing”.

    15. The poor labourers – for all you know they were under the impression the payment was to watch a sporting event, not be the event itself!!!

      Glad no one got a sun stroke in the blistering heat at 1 pm!!

      Action needs to be taken on the promoters/organisers for giving a bad name to Qatar.

    16. ………….Some laborers tried to leave but were turned back and were yelled at that they need to stay and cross the line.”.. is this not abuse pure and simple. Perhaps the organizers broke all records where the labourers were concerned and did not really get close to any other records

    17. Wow. These organizers are a joke and should be banned from any more approvals for events. It seemed they got almost everything wrong.
      And to yell at laborers who do not want to continue, it is voluntary, shame on them!

      And why do they have to try to break world records?! Anyone with a bit of commen sense would know that just encouraging numbers would result in ill equipped and untrained people joining in which is very unsafe!

    18. A marathon? In the middle of the desert? In the summer? Oh well, yeah! Here’s where sanity takes a back seat!

    19. First off, the very name of the competition is a con job. It’s called the Qatar Mega Marathon, when it actually was a 21.1km half-marathon.

      The organisation was crap, but I would lay the blame squarely on the Al Sadd club management as well. They should’ve taken better care to see the kind of people they’re associating themselves with. Rocket science isn’t needed to background check the sub-organisers, whether they have half a dime worth of experience in organising such a big event.

      Just looking at their event website, reeking of amateurism, should’ve sent the alarm bells ringing. A 10th-grader could do a more professional job. I’m surprised at the club’s lackadaisical approach to the whole situation.

      One of the ‘organisers’ tendered an apology. Big deal. What’s really needed is the club to step forward and say they erred. But knowing how things are in Qatar, that’s never going to happen.

      I predict this issue to have a shelf life of exactly three days from now…

    20. With 70%+ Obesity rate Qatar is one of the laziest country on the planet, how did 33K people show up for this marathon?

      I am not surprised if the organizers failed at the event. There are 3 reasons why things don’t work in Qatar:

      1) Permits: Takes ages to get permission for anything at all, if the permits are issued that is. They solely depend on the mood of the person sitting behind the table, there are no regulations, no process or procedures that are enforced.

      2) Greed: Most internationally known companies may it be Damac, Leo Burnett, Vanellis etc… all provide terrible services in Qatar because they know they can make a lot of money for something really unprofessional. Look at Ooredoo’s branding, Qatar museum’s new logo, Damac’s construction in Lusail, Rasgas dreams video, Vanellis and Chow King’s food poison etc… and the list keeps going on.

      3) PR, Wasta or Connections: It’s all about the image and who you know here to an extent that the wasta made its way to Fifa as well some how lol. You can create an image using your wasta and make a lot of money out of it, even if you don’t act upon it, it is enough for you to have an international image and show off what your wasta got you.

      Things will only change when authorities will make an effort to write proper rules and then enforce them strictly.

    21. Umm…..so were people “Forced” to run in this event simply to try and run up a high number of participants? This quote is quite telling ” representative told Doha News that appropriate running clothing and shoes had been given to all participants, but that he couldn’t force runners to wear them”
      Having ran in numerous global races runners are generally not “given” shoes and clothing, and most certainly are not told what they must wear. Sounds like they grabbed a bunch of workers, loaded them on buses, and sent them out to run in an event to give the appearance of large levels of participation and with only goal being the vanity of hosting the “largest” marathon – which in itself is a lie as its not even a marathon! By definition it must be 42.195 KM or 26.38 miles.
      So here you have a poorly organized event, that purposefully lies in an attempt to have some record book number. Seriously, the people of Qatar, the event organizers, everyone involved in this should be asking themselves some very serious questions. If I was associated with such a farce, I would be ashamed.

    22. Qatar’s failure in the organization because the organization department of the event administers the Assistant Director of Mega Marathon Qatar named Khalid is the first reason for the failure of this contest which is when demand large numbers of workers and people conditions and adequate for the Sunday night contest is that Eachd everyone money and mobile phone and promises Too many have not been in Tani day of the race’s greatest failure I’ve ever lived not only did it but was ending the contest has been held accountable individuals workers which is close to 15,000 thousand workers and most Elly were involved and this is the exact number of racers there yesterday and last night a lot of problems not yet solved

    23. LOL. Nothing new. Qatar at its best. This country is a total joke. And Gonzales Cervantes Spanish? I don’t think so. South American maybe. Likely Filipino.

    24. Ms. Walker, fellow Strathclyder here. Hilarious comments below. I was at the event and completed the ‘mega’ half marathon – my first. The situation with the laborers was indeed true. There were very few women overall, and most of them were Philippino. As an Indian woman running by myself, I was at the receiving end of a LOT of staring and lewd comments. The heat and the crowds were already annoying, but this laborer overdose just made it worse. A laborer asked me at the 18 KM mark whether I knew the nearest bus stop. He said he had been walking all the way from start point for 18 KMs looking for a bus but couldn’t find one. I just did not know how to respond.

    25. Recognition of the right virtue I do not defect to lose and learn from my mistakes but I will be exalted and defect Matervh right I lost performance and worked improper

    26. Since when was the handball Championship well organised? Disorganised parking, bussing in labourers, flying in Spaniards, forcing military service personnel to attend, all just to pretend that the crowds were bigger they were. Half the time these people were occupying ticketed seats. Foreign fans who had paid for hotels and flights just to be told that they should have turned up 4 hours before the game because military service personnel, who may not have wanted to be there, were occupying their seat so they couldn’t get in. Is this what Doha News calls a slick operation?

      A marathon and Handball World Championships are small tournaments that are easy to organise. If these cannot be done perfectly, then how is the World Cup, an event 10x as big, going to run at all smoothly?

    27. Really too bad. How about just organizing a regular marathon instead of trying to break a world record…Do it small, do it well, establish a good reputation in an honest way, and it will grow as the years go by.
      Reminds me of when we were locked out of the Asian Cup final because the organizers bussed in hundreds of people to fill seats for fear of low turnout.

    28. First of all it was a Half Marathon, not a Marathon. Next – starting at 13:00 is ridiculous in any climate and more so here. Third, making runners wait an hour to start is awful! This is about having a good credible run. Check out the RAK Half in UAE. Not an opportunity for a meaningless record, but for a true world record. You won’t get serious runners and those seriously in love with running out othewise.

    29. This was the first event I have joined in the country, and disappointed, late start of the race, and yes loads of runners who’s wearing flip-flops,sandals and jeans, wasn’t able to finish the run only reached 19km but I’ve noticed that those runners who reached the finish line didn’t received any medals as it was said.

    30. You don’t force people to run a marathon, even if your provide them with complete new sports outfit ! Running marathon needs proper and long training,

    31. This is how the marathon is being reported in the West-
      Qatar Workers Forced To Run Marathon Shoeless In Bid For World Record
      In an effort to break the Guinness World Record for the largest marathon ever, officials in Doha, Qatar, bused in thousands of immigrant slaves working in the country and forced them to runin whatever clothes they had — including even if they were shoeless.

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