Aug 2, 2011

Cancellation of 2011 Galway City Marathon

The Galway City Marathon regrets to advise participants that the Marathon, Half-Marathon and Mini-Marathon races scheduled for 28 August this year are cancelled. We will

1. Refund all entry fees to participants, and
2. Transport all overseas registered athletes, who wish to take part in an alternative marathon in Ireland on the same date, to that location from Galway City.

Details on refunds and the alternative race will follow this week.

In brief, we are forced to cancel the marathon at this late stage, mindful of the disruption to participants’ travel plans, because our undertaking  has effectively been targeted by Galway City representatives, who, rather than facilitate the Galway City Marathon, have acted to undermine and obstruct us.

Major race events require forward planning by organisers who bring many elements to a race including course design and marketing among other factors. To this end, over one year ago we agreed the dates for the races with Galway City Council officials. Further, we confirmed these dates in February of this year.

The Galway City Marathon organisers changed the start/finish location from Galway Harbour as part of an overall route change, in line with our previous experience of Galway’s inherent traffic problems, which impacted the Marathon during the second circuit in the 2010 event. Rather than two circuits for the Marathon, the new route was to operate on a single circuit with a short, rolling road closure in order to minimise traffic disruption. We arranged for Sword Security experts to marshal the 2011 route.

Despite our previous confirmation of dates, on 8 April we were informed without explanation by a transportation engineer acting on behalf of the Council that "the dates...together with the revised start/finish locations in 2011 cannot be accommodated by the City Council." The same engineer subsequently informed us that "Ironman is effectively taking over Salthill during the week after your event, and this is why your date, together with the start/finish locations, are a problem." This point was reiterated by a senior City official who stated that "the real problem is the Ironman…." (Note: Ironman 70.3 Galway is a half Ironman distance triathlon operating in Galway on 4 September 2011 and does not conflict with our agreed dates; moreover the Council has been inundated with traffic disruption complaints about the Ironman race).

However, the Galway City Marathon organisers viewed these issues as resolved after a meeting on 5 May 2011, in which the Director of Services reconfirmed the date and courses as being available.

Yet, despite ongoing monetary and time-intensive investment by the Galway City Marathon organisers in the event, the then City Mayor and Ironman supporter Michael Crowe had the following inserted on a written agenda of motions for a meeting of Galway City Council on 16 May:

'That this Council examine the option of taking over the responsibility of organising, operating and running of a marathon in Galway City".

Mayor Crowe, in response to a subsequent email from the Galway City Marathon organisers wrote:

"Galway City Council should begin to take control of events such as this....and reap at least some of the financial rewards".

Mayor Crowe also told a journalist from a local newspaper that the event would not be going ahead.

(At this juncture we note that the Ironman is owned and operated by an overseas business with all entry fees going to those organisers and not to the City. It also receives substantial funding from the City Council.)

The former Mayor Crowe’s actions raise many questions, not the least of which is whether he views himself as an agent for City business and that his Office or the City has the right to take the intellectual property rights of another entity, and / or delegate the Galway City Marathon to interests favoured by him.

Subsequent to these developments, the City Council raised operating costs and limited the Marathon’s course options in a manner not applied to other road events. Finally, in the past week we were forced to the realisation that we could never accept an option that effectively consigned the race to footpaths or on a highly restricted circuit, as envisioned by the Council. Whether capricious or ill-conceived, these options if implemented would have resulted in an unsatisfactory if not hazardous experience for our competitors. We cannot and will not allow that to happen.

Noteworthy also may be the fact that the City Council has given no financial support to the Galway City Marathon, and all event proceeds last year were given to charity or to local business in operating costs. In terms of impact, the event resulted in the fastest road mile in Ireland in 2010, the second fastest marathon time (next to Dublin), and the third fastest time in the world at 50km. Prizes of trips to the Antarctic and Chicago Marathons were awarded along with over €10,000 in prize money. This year's event would have seen over 2,000 athletes take part, with subsequent influx of monies into City businesses.

We conclude therefore that the following may explain the above series of events:

1)      Galway City Council acted in an arbitrary and capricious fashion relative to its dealings with the organisers of the Galway City Marathon, indicating a collective lack of business acumen on their part together with an apparent reckless indifference to the logistics of organising such an event; or

2)      Galway City Council, in confirming and agreeing the Marathon race date with the organisers, was not acting in good faith, consistent with Mayor Crowe’s email to us that the Council should “begin to take control of events such as this ... and reap at least some of the financial rewards”.

Against this backdrop, the Galway City Marathon organisers apologise to all entrants for the enforced cancellation of the event. For the record, we do not believe that this outcome is the fault of the Ironman organisers, and wish them success.

In conclusion—and to establish our proven credentials in race planning—recently the Galway City Marathon organisers planned, funded and hosted the Trail World Championships in Connemara (9 July 2011), an event heralded as a "resounding success" by the IAU (the Ultra-Running wing of the IAAF). The organisers were given an Order of Merit by the international athletics body for an "outstanding job" in dealing with extremely difficult logistics. More importantly, this event will be broadcast to over 100 million households globally, thereby showcasing County Galway in a uniquely positive light. The first date of broadcast is 28 August 2011 on Channel 4: the date of the now cancelled Galway City Marathon.

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