The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon has been rescheduled to February next year, the organiser announced on Tuesday, days after cancelling the race amid ongoing Covid-19 restrictions in the city.
“The Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates (HKAAA) announced today… that it has received the Government’s full support to actively plan the staging of the 25th Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon on Sunday, 12 February 2023,” a press statement by the organiser read.
Last Friday, the HKAAA said the sporting event would not go ahead in November as planned, citing “insufficient time for runners and relevant stakeholders to adequately prepare for the race.” Organisers said they had yet to receive approval from the government with only two months remaining.
Commissioner for Sports Yeung Tak-keung questioned the group’s reason on Monday, saying the 2021 race was also approved with only two months to go.
He said the government had been in close contact with the organiser and provided help as best as it could. Yeung at that time said the HKAAA did not consider postponing the race, even though there was an available slot in February.
The HKAAA on Tuesday, however, reversed course, hours after Chief Executive John Lee had expressed disappointment over the axing of the popular sports event.
“Our position is very clear, we are very supportive and we want both sides to work towards the goal of making it happen,” Lee said during his weekly press briefing. “[I]t is [in] the organiser’s interest, and Hong Kong government’s interest and the community’s interest for these things to happen. So I want that common will to be developed for the good of Hong Kong.”
Further details were yet to be announced by the HKAAA, but it promised to “strictly adhere to and implement all necessary anti-pandemic measures,” and work closely with relevant government departments.
Several sporting events have been cancelled or relocated due to Hong Kong’s strict Covid-19 measures, with all incoming travellers required to undergo three nights of hotel quarantine and four nights of “medical surveillance.” The city also maintains a four-person public gathering limit and an outdoor mask mandate.
Blaming the stringent quarantine rules, the organisers of the 2023 World Dragon Boat Racing Championships abandoned Hong Kong for Thailand on Sunday. The previous day, the Oxfam Trailwalker event was also called off.
Lee on Tuesday said the government would review the pandemic situation and make necessary adjustments to the quarantine policy, with an announcement to follow “as soon as possible.” Experts have called for measures such as mandatory hotel quarantine to be scrapped so that Hong Kong can begin to return to normalcy.
Hong Kong has reported a total of 1.71 million Covid-19 infections and 9,901 related deaths since the pandemic began.