By PHILIP CHANDLER
Queenstown International Marathon’s boss is still hopeful the resort’s biggest one-day event – which last year had a record field of 12,000-plus – can run again this November, despite the current Covid-19 ban on big events.
Dave Beeche, Ironman Group’s Oceania managing director, says they’re planning on the basis restrictions on mass gatherings will have been lifted by then.
“We are throwing everything at trying to work out how we could do it but, to be honest, it’s likely to result in some capacity constraints.
“It’s hard to think we would still be able to deliver a 12,000-person event with spatial distancing required, of whatever it is [by then].
“It’s just trying to find that mid-ground between keeping people safe and complying with government guidelines, and still trying to deliver a great athlete experience.”
No options are off the table, he says.
The event could comprise just the marathon and half marathon, for example, and shed the 10km race, or there could be course changes.
But to create distancing, Beeche says the event’s likely to be elongated, subject to the council’s appetite for longer road closures, or even run over two days, though that’d add to the cost.
“It’s not just reduced capacity, it’s whatever extra costs are going to come with putting in whatever safety measures we have to” – for example, additional medical resources or sanitation procedures.
“That’s all got to be factored in to the cost model – we need to make sure obviously it runs on a profitable basis before we can 100 per cent commit to it.”
Beeche is confident Aussies, who made up about 12 per cent of last year’s field, will be able to travel by November, though accepts borders will probably still be closed for other internationals.
Last year, 44 countries were represented, including 146 runners from the United States and 144 from China.
Beeche, however, isn’t too worried – “just about every Kiwi has been filling the streets with activity during lockdown”.
The event could also attract Kiwis who don’t have other travel options, he adds.
Beeche says he’s backing NZ Events Association’s lobbying of government to allow larger events to run – the current Level 2 limits them to just 100 people.
“I think events have got a massive role to play in helping rebuild tourism in Queenstown.”
Meanwhile, he’s confident next March’s annual Motatapu mountain bike/running event from Wanaka to Arrowtown, which Ironman also organises, will go ahead as planned.