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‘Transport Malta call for marathon athletes to run in traffic direction is dangerous’

2022 Malta Marathon in danger of being cancelled says organisers

The Malta Marathon is in danger of being cancelled for a third successive year unless authorities issue new health protocols and permits for the route of the race, the Malta Marathon Organising Committee announced on Thursday.

During the last three years, the MMOC were forced to cancel the annual running race in 2019 due to inclement weather and in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic regulations that forbid the organisation of mass sporting events.

With the COVID-19 situation in Malta improving gradually in recent weeks it was hoped that the long-distance running race would be back on the sporting schedule of 2022, however, a clash of opinion between the authorities and the organising committee has put the race at severe risk.

“We regret to inform you that the 2022 Malta Marathon may be cancelled within the next few hours unless the Maltese Authorities issue a practical COVID-19 Mass Sports protocol and the permit for our route, which has been used successfully for the past 12 years,” the MMOC said in a statement.

“This instead of the route imposed by Transport Malta which has been deemed unacceptable by Mater Dei Hospital Emergency Department, the Malta Red Cross and the Malta Traffic Police.

“In the 37 years of Malta Marathon’s existence it is with sadness that this event may not take place for the third time: in 2019 due to inclement weather, in 2021 due to COVID-19 and in 2022 due government permits. Please be advised that in case of cancellation all application and transport fees paid to the MMOC, will be refunded in due course.”

Contacted by the Times of Malta, Joe Micallef, the chairman of the organising committee, said that the conditions that have been given to the MMOC by both the Health Authorities and Transport Malta were not acceptable and he hoped that revised conditions will be given to the race organisers.

Micallef said that the MMOC were given a health protocol that stipulated a capacity capping of not more than 100 athletes, with runners starting in groups of six.

However, sources have told the Times of Malta that the MMOC were given revised health protocols that had no capping on the number of participants that took part in the race, provided they were in possession of a COVID-19 certificate.

Added to that, the participants would start in distinct groups of 100 and would wear the masks once they crossed the finishing line.

The biggest issue that is putting the race at risk is the route permit issued by Transport Malta as the authority will only give its green light for the race to be held if a number of changes to the route are affected, which in essence will see participants run in the same direction of traffic and not against.

“What Transport Malta is asking from us is wrong and goes against the international running recommendations,” Micallef told the Times of Malta.

“We have a route that has been confirmed for the past 12 years and which always granted a permit by Transport Malta, but this year it’s not being accepted by the same body.

“In principle Transport Malta doesn’t want athletes to run against traffic but in the same direction of cars and such stipulation not only will cause a huge increase in traffic in key areas but more importantly will put the health of participants in serious risk.”

Micallef said that Transport Malta wants participants to no longer run along the lane close to the sea but use the other side of the road and run with the traffic coming from their back.

“Such a condition will put the athletes’ health in serious risk as they are not seeing the cars moving towards them and an accident is easy to happen,” Micallef said.

“Added to that Transport Malta wants participants to cross towards Sliema from near the Workers Memorial and then head to Rue D’Argens in a decision that no doubt cause huge traffic jams for cars coming from Pietà, Msida and Birkirkara.”

Micallef said that he held a meeting with Transport Malta officials in recent weeks and invited for the meeting representatives from the Mater Dei Emergency Department, the Malta Red Cross and the Police Traffic section.

“During the meeting all representatives present told the Transport Malta officials that the conditions being set were very dangerous for the well being of the athletes as well as for the volunteers, the police members and medical personnel who assist the participants,” Micallef said.

“I have sent an email to the authorities to revise their conditions and I am awaiting a response. If there is no change in their stance, I will have no other option but to cancel this year’s race.”

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