KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — The Youth and Sports Ministry said today it will discuss with organisers its plan to change the date of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2015 because of the National Sports Day, after critics of the move accused the government of politicising the sporting event.
In a post on Twitter, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin gave his assurance to those affected by the date change, saying, “Thanks for all feedback re #SCKLM2015. We are looking into the issue with the organisers right now.”
The annual marathon is a popular tourism draw for Malaysia, attracting thousands of participants and sporting enthusiast alike into the capital every year.
It is also seen as one of the nation’s most lucrative sporting events with a prize money of US$125,000 (about RM475, 662) at stake for this year’s competition.
All 35,000 spots for the 2015 edition of the run were snapped within four days after registration was opened on May 18.
On July 13, Khairy’s ministry issued a press release to announce that the event would now be turned into the flagship event of the National Sports Day and be moved from October 4 to 10 for this purpose.
“The marathon.... will lend a big boost to the targeted 3 million participants for the inaugural National Sports Day.
“This mean that the iconic race will move from its announced date of Sunday, October 4 to Saturday, October 10 2015,” the statement posted on the SCKLM 2015 website read.
The announcement caught both local and foreign participants off-guard, leading to angry calls on the government to shelve their plans.
A Facebook page and a petition titled “Bring SCKLM Back To October 4: Stop Politicising Sporting Events” have also emerged, both protesting the date change.
At the time of writing, the petition has already garnered 15,555 signatures while the Facebook page hit 3,182 likes.
Singaporean sports enthusiast Jason Chuang told Malay Mail Online that he spent about SGD300 for both flight tickets and accommodation in Kuala Lumpur, in preparation for the race.
However, his hopes were dashed after reading the announcement on the date change by the ministry and believing that he ministry was not likely to change its mind, he is now seeking a refund from the organiser of the event, Dirigo Events Sdn Bhd.
“I don’t think they will do that, so I already asked for a refund and since my hotel has been booked, I might just change my plan and go for a holiday with my friends instead,” he said when contacted.
“I read the comments on all the sites set up to protest against the change, but there is no point complaining. I am just going to be smarter next time and not join this run anymore. I am a little fortunate as I am only in Singapore, but what about those who are coming from much further countries?
“We forgive, but we won’t forget,” he added.
Some of the participants also flooded Khairy’s Facebook page with comments, accusing the ministry of being selfish and of using the crowd meant for the marathon to boost numbers at the government’s sports day.
Earlier today, Serdang’s DAP MP Ong Kiang Ming who had also registered for the run chided Khairy, saying the minister should have anticipated the public backlash that would follow resulting from the change in date of SCKLM 2015 .