Monday, July 23, 2007

Mizuno Wave Run 2007 -- The Unreported Story

If you all have paid close attention to the news yesterday & today, it would not escape you all that early yesterday morning (22/7/2007), two events, namely Mizuno Wave Run 2007 and a community walk-a-jog organised by Aljunied GRC, were held at the Bedok Reservoir area and that these 2 events helped to raise S$150, 000 for the construction of a dragon boat house which is to be situated beside Bedok Reservoir.

Coincidentally, I was one of the 8000 runners (this figure is according to the organisers of the run) who took part in Mizuno Wave Run 2007 (note: there were a 5km fun run & a 10km competitive run; I took part in the latter).

My opinion of the run?

Well, it is my opinion that while the run may have been a fundraising success, as a competitive running event, it was a great disappointment, if not a total failure.

And I am not alone in this assessment of mine, considering that there was a whole chorus of complaints & negative feedback (by my last count, there are 15 pages worth of this) about the run in the SGRunners discussion forum (which I am, unfortunately, unable to provide you all with a link to as it is a protected forum which can only be accessed by registered users) by runners who have participated in the run (some of who have used language less polite than mine in their assessment of the run).

Of course, I must not discount the possibility that the heavy rain which occurred before the run started and only stopped about 30 minutes before the run's commencement could have contributed negatively to the conducting of the run.

However, that said, I must say that the rainy weather cannot excuse the many obvious deficiencies of the run which, in my opinion, stemmed mainly from 2 major deficiencies: one, gross understaffing and two, poor organisation.

Where are the marshallers?

Firstly, there were not enough marshallers along the running route to provide directions to the runners. Even those who appeared to be marshallers for the run were rather unprofessional in the execution of their duties, considering that quite a few of them were just sitting/standing by the side talking amongst themselves and/or daydreaming. To make matters worse, from what I could observe, I think the organisers failed to provide some form of identification (e.g. identity tags or some uniform attire) to the marshallers to faciliate the identification of these marshallers by runners who need help.

This lack of committed marshallers, coupled together with the last minute change in the finishing point from inside Temasek Polytechnic to an area beside Bedok Reservoir and the lack of information about what the 5km running route would be like in the run's information pamphlet (see picture above; only a map of the original 10km route, with its finishing point within Temasek Polytechnic, was provided in the pamphlet), resulted in several 5km runners actually taking the wrong route to run 10km while some 10km runners, from what I can gather from the complaints in the SGRunners forum, ran more than 10km.

Where is the finishing point?

And, in case you all are wondering how it is possible that the 10km runners could have run more than 10km, allow me to inform you all that there was no proper and/or clear finishing point/line provided at the end of the run. Shocking but true. There was a Mizuno balloon arch but it was not made clear whether this was the finishing point or not. In any case, this balloon arch was not the finishing point. The finishing point, from what I can gather, was supposed to be situated at this timer clock which was placed in the middle of the running track some distance behind the balloon arch and which was not clearly marked out as being the finishing point. And, yes, from what I observed, there were no staff from the organisers near this supposed finishing point to inform runners that this was the finishing point and/or to make the runners feel welcome that they have finished the run.

It did not help that, some distance (which I estimate to be about 400m-500m) away from the supposed finishing point, there was another prominent balloon arch with the word "Finishing" prominently emblazoned across it. It turns out that this was the finishing point for the community walk-a-jog organised by Aljunied GRC, which, though it was delayed slightly due to the rainy weather, was conducted concurrently with the Mizuno Wave Run (in fact, both these events even had the same set of guests of honour i.e. the team of MPs from Aljunied GRC). This led to greater confusion as several runners mistook this other balloon arch as the finishing point, only to realise that it was not their finishing point when they reached it.

Thus, with this evident lack of a proper/clear finishing point, I can understand why several runners on the SGRunners forum are saying that they have not "finished" the run.

Where is the crowd control?

The gross understaffing of support staff and poor organisation of the run can also be seen in the severe lack of crowd control at the tentage for the collection of goodie bags, which was situated at an area beside the "finishing point", after the run.

As it is often said, a picture speak a thousand words. Thus, I would just use the following pictures, which I have "grabbed" from a forummer on the SGRunners forum, to illustrate how bad the crowd control situation was at goodie bag collection area.

As can be seen from the first 3 pictures above, there was only limited crowd control by the run's support staff who acted as "human barriers" at the goodie bag collection area. And, as for the last picture, it is a picture of the end of the amazing long queue for goodie bags. Oh yeah, in case you are mistaken, the goodie bags are not free gifts; they are goodie bags which are entitled to all registered runners who paid a registration fee of S$20 & S$15 for the 10km competitive run and 5km fun run respectively. So please don't attribute this long queue for goodie bags as a symptom of the "kiasu" mentality of Singaporeans for free gifts.

Where is my bag?

Ok, I would now move on to an aspect of the run which irked me the most: the baggage deposit and collection.

Why am I so irked about baggage deposit & collection?

Well, for one thing, the baggage deposit, for at least the male runners, was only available from about 0700h onwards with only 2 support staff to help out with the collection of bags from the runners. Oh yeah, did I mention that the run was scheduled to start at 0730h?

Thus, assuming that there were equal numbers of males & females amongst the 8000 participating runners, there would be about 4000 male runners. Hmm... 2 persons collecting 4000 bags in 30 minutes?

Yes, I must not forget that not all runners brought baggage along and that the rainy weather before the commencement of the run could have delayed the availability of baggage collection. Yet, it remains unacceptable that they only had 2 support staff to collect the bags. It was also unacceptable that the bags were kept in a van/lorry without proper organisation in accordance with the baggage deposit number tags attached to them.

Even more unacceptable was how the baggage collection was conducted. Basically, they had the same 2 support staff (some helpful runners later decided to help these poor 2 support staff), standing at the back of the vans/lorries in which the bags were deposited in, shouting out baggage tag numbers, as they took out individual bags from the vans, to the large crowd of runners, waiting to collect their deposited baggage, in front of them. Bags which were taken out but unclaimed (because the owners of these bags weren't there yet) were dumped on the wet muddy ground with no one telling those who arrived later at the baggage collection area that these bags were unclaimed bags. In fact, for at least the first 10 minutes or so that I was at the baggage collection area, I think they had no one guarding these taken out but unclaimed bags so basically, anyone could have taken them away without permission and not be detected. For me, I had to hunt around for a while before I found my waistpouch which I had earlier deposited (fortunately, it wasn't on the muddy ground but on a table surrounded by the large crowd of runners).

Hence, on the overall, I must say that this run is rather poorly staffed and badly organised. In fact, I agree with those runners on the SGRunners who said that they will blacklist/boycott future runs organised by those behind Mizuno Wave Run 2007. On that note, the institutions which have been involved in the organising, sponsoring & supporting of the run, as can be seen from the picture below (taken from the information pamphlet of the run), are not unknown entities but institutions which are quite respectable.

What now?/Where is the QC?

Okay, now that I have said my piece about the run, let us look at the bigger picture.

As you all would be aware, it is a stated desire of Singapore (or, more specifically, the Singapore Government) that it be developed into a Sports Hub.

Yet, using Mizuno Wave Run 2007 as an example, it can be inferred that if such poorly organised sports events be allowed to continue happening, it will perhaps not only sully Singapore's reputation but also negatively affect its plans to become a sports hub.

No, I am not exaggerating. Just think about it, competitive runs, such as Mizuno Wave Run 2007 (which, though I did not catch sight of them, have foreign runners taking part in it) do have foreign participants taking part in them and imagine how these foreign participants will think about Singapore's capability to organise sporting events when they encounter sub-standard events like this year's Mizuno Wave Run?

Yes, perhaps Mizuno Wave Run 2007 is just one bad apple in a big barrel of good apples. But it just takes one bad apple to ruin things, especially if this is the first and only apple that people, local and/or foreign, bite into.

Thus, as suggested by one of the forummers on the SGRunners forum and I agree with the sentiment behind the suggestion, perhaps Singapore should, besides setting up a committee to look into the safety standards of local sporting events, also set up an auditing/quality control committee which looks into ensuring the organisational quality of local sporting events through perhaps grading them (I mean, if we can grade the hygiene level of local F&B outlets, why not do the same with local sporting events?) and that maybe have the authority to impose penalties on badly organised local sporting events.

In the end, if we are really intent on making Singapore a Sports Hub, we need more than good safety standards and excellent facilities; we also need quality sporting events which are properly staffed and organised.

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