from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls,
VICTORIA FALLS, (CAJ News) – ONE of the continent’s most iconic athletics events – Victoria Falls Marathon- is again off as the global community reels from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In the process, Zambia’s and Zimbabwe’s tourism industries will take a battering.
The event had been set for July.
A possibility is high it will again be downgraded to a virtual event, as was the case last year as organisers postponed the event from the traditional mid-year slot to December, when it was done virtually with about 5 000 participants taking part.
John Addison, one of the organisers of the marathon sponsored by telecommunications giant, Econet, retained faint hope the race would be held in its standard format.
“We are waiting to hear from various stakeholders on whether we can host a real event this year, hopefully later in August – or not. We hope to have a final decision on this soon and a plan on action.”
However, the organisers recently posted on their official social media pages that the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon had been postponed indefinitely.
“We regret to announce that our initial marathon date of the 4th of July 2021 will not be going ahead as we look for a more suitable date in 2021. Unfortunately, we feel that this date is too soon to run an event
of this size in a way that would be safe for our runners and we are awaiting government advice on the next steps we can take in order to run such an event,” read a statement from the organisers.
The Zimbabwean government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa is unlikely to sanction the race amid fears of a COVID-19 third wave.
The marathon attracted a maximum of 5 000 participants over the years.
While it is a sporting spectacle, it has emerged as a cash cow.
Hotel bookings in Victoria Falls and the Zambian town of Livingstone rise significantly during the marathon period.
Locals also rent out their homes and employment opportunities usually arise.
The marathon comprises a full 42km marathon, a half-marathon of 21km and the 7,5km fun run.
It is the second biggest jamboree in the town, after the Victoria Falls Carnival, usually held in December.
The carnival was cancelled last year because of lockdown restrictions imposed by the government in early 2020.
Zimbabwe has recorded 38 961 cases, including 1 594 deaths from COVID-19, as of the end of May.
This is the 20th most severe outbreak in Africa.
– CAJ News