More than a Sport, Marathon is a Way of Life

Editor's Note: Is the marathon a sport for all or just a carnival for the middle class? Do so many roads need to be closed and so many volunteers posted, which disrupt the public order, to ensure a marathon race proceeds smoothly? WANG Xueli, director of the Center for Development of Sports Industry, Tsinghua University, shares her views on the issues with China Daily's WU Zheyu.


Events need to be people-friendly


Last year, at least 328 marathons were held in China in which 2.8 million runners participated. This suggests marathon is destined to be a popular sport.


However, there is need to clearly define the relationship among runners, local authorities and residents. Some cities are over-reacting by claiming that marathons cause major disruptions in the public order.


But the closure of roads and posting of thousands of volunteers along the course of a marathon do cause major inconvenience to residents. Once a city, which I don't want to name, hired 30,000 volunteers (some say security guards) to man the marathon route when the total number of runners was only 20,000. Even the runners complained about the arrangement, with some saying they felt like prisoners taken out for a walk under strict security guard.


Nevertheless, runners and local residents need not be on opposite sides. In Tokyo, for example, local residents act as volunteers along the marathon route.


Local city governments in China should not randomly close roads to traffic and local residents. In fact, the Chinese Athletic Association's rules and regulations say resources beyond the standard and capacity of a host city should not be used.


Since the core technical specifications for marathons across the world are very similar, they could become homogeneous competitions. So there is need to weave local characteristics into the planning of marathons, for instance, by taking the route through local scenic, cultural or commercial spots, or subdividing a race into women's marathon or mini-marathon for parents and children.


(Source: China Daily, 05/20/2017, page5)