- Organisers have so far kept a low profile amid ongoing anti-government protests that have battered the city since June
- The half-marathon and marathon will start on Nathan Road and finish at Victoria Park, with runners taking the Eastern Harbour crossing
The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon will go ahead as planned in February, with organisers reluctant to reschedule the annual showpiece despite social unrest that has battered the city since June.
"We are making good progress on all our preparation work for the 2020 event," said Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association chairman Kwan Kee. "We want to stage a race for Hong Kong people to enjoy on a Sunday morning and are working towards that objective. We don't have too much worries about things that may affect the race."
The 2020 Hong Kong Marathon, to be held on February 9, has already attracted a full quota of 74,000 participants who will be running in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island in three different events " 10K, half marathon and the full marathon.
The half and full marathons will start on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and finish at Victoria Park on the island side while the 10K route is along the Island Eastern Corridor " starting near Fortress Hill and finishing also at Victoria Park.
Despite being the biggest participation sporting event in Hong Kong, organisers have been keeping a low profile ahead of the 2020 race because of the anti-government protests. So far, they have only sent out one media release, last August, simply announcing the event.
Dennis Ng Yu-ho, executive director of the HKAAA, said the body experienced a similar situation before the 2015 event, several months after the Occupy Central campaign.
We have some contingency plans … But we think the participants are rational as they join the event mainly for the running, challenging themselves and fulfilling their potentialDennis Ng Yu-ho, executive director of the HKAAA
"We have some contingency plans, just like what we prepared at the 2015 event," he said. "But we think the participants are rational as they join the event mainly for the running, challenging themselves and fulfilling their potential. The Hong Kong Marathon is a sporting event and this is why they are there.
"Of course, some may come for other reasons we don't know about. But mutual respect should always come first."
Last month, the HKAAA staged the Hong Kong Island 10K City Race, with the final stages of the route similar to that of the Hong Kong Marathon. The event attracted 3,000 runners and was deemed a success despite several participants wearing costumes typical of protesters and displaying political slogans.
The organisers had said before the race they would not stop anyone from taking part unless their behaviour inconvenienced other runners.
Last week, more than 7,000 runners joined the 2020 Streetathon with its 32.195km route running across the Eastern Harbour Tunnel for the first time. Some runners also took the opportunity to display their political views but the event was completed without any major hiccups.
"I think the general political atmosphere has somewhat improved since November's District Council elections with social protests dying down a bit. This should be a good sign for the Hong Kong Marathon," said a source close to the organisers.
"Of course, the political situation is still unpredictable as it needs just one incident to stir up the whole thing again and undermine the February event. But it seems to be looking good."
Hong Kong's top female marathon runner, Christy Yiu Kit-ching, has said she would enter the race for the first time since 2016 as she bids for a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic. To do so, she needs to finish in the top five of the IAAF gold label event.
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