I REFER to the report “MAF finally decide to come down hard on ‘illegal’ road races” (The Star, Feb 3).
It was rather baffling to read that there are so-called illegal road races in athletics, as described by the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF).
Apparently, the MAF was referring to the burgeoning road races such as full marathons, half-marathons, and other shorter distance races (10km and 5km) that are held practically every weekend especially in cities and towns.
Understandably, the MAF being the national athletics governing body is a sport organisation that has a regulatory or sanctioning function; they have a variety of regulatory functions including taking disciplinary action for rule infractions and deciding on rule changes in the sport they govern.
Having said that, I think the warning by MAF president Karim Ibrahim to some event organisers about not following regulations for organising road races was most uncalled for.
The organisers presumably only seek approval from other parties like Tourism Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, police and venue owners to hold their events.
I guess the MAF felt they have been slighted because the organisers have not approached them for permission to run road races.
By the way, who on earth would organise illegal road races? Surely they are not mat rempits?
Let’s put things in perspective. As far as I know, since colonial times until now, the public have never been informed that they needed the approval of the national athletics governing body to hold road races. Had it been so, they would have sought permission from the MAF before organising such road races.
However, the organisers are mostly non-profit NGOs from the private sector, and government bodies including government departments, schools, colleges and universities.
The primary function of the MAF, which draws its funds from the Government, should be promoting sports for all in general and preparing elite athletes to represent the country in international competitions.
Many of these NGOs organise road races to, among others, raise awareness of the role of sport in the promotion of social inclusion, equal opportunities and health. Educational institutions, especially schools, hold road races, including cross-country runs, simply as co-curriculum programmes to encourage participation in sport and physical activity.
The MAF should be thankful and grateful to the NGOs who sacrifice their time, effort, energy and money to help promote sport voluntarily which, of course, may also unearth and produce elite runners from road races.
The question of competition for venues and participation of quality athletes does not arise. Both parties have their respective goals in organising the events but, ultimately, sport will emerge as the winner.
Thus, it is the irony of ironies for the MAF to label road races organised by NGOs as illegal when in actual fact they are also promoting mass sport for all and giving opportunities for participants to compete and have fun in sport.
The MAF should really focus on bringing back the glorious days of athletics to Malaysia instead of getting riled and reeling about “illegal” road races.