Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
12 Oct 2013
11:00 am

Rearranging deckchairs on SS Soweto Marathon

Wesley Botton

The only thing worse than cancelling an iconic event is waiting until the 11th hour to pull the plug and let the ship sink.

Wesley Botton.

Thousands of runners will be far more disappointed now, after all the hours of training that go into a 42km race, than they would have been if the various role-players had simply admitted they couldn’t organise a booze-up in a boathouse, let alone a mass cruise with multiple logistical constraints.

The excuses are bountiful, and they’re streaming in from all sides, with the race left abandoned like a shipwreck. The Soweto Marathon Trust, after insisting it wanted control, spent nine months planning to mend a cruise ship they believed was lucrative and couldn’t possibly capsize.

Three months before they were scheduled to leave shore, they realised they hadn’t actually started repairing the battered ship, let alone registering it, appointing officials or selling tickets to potential passengers, so they ran from the port with their fingers shaking at an embattled one-man organisation that had signed off the rights to the half-wrecked ship.

An interim committee was then formed, with government claiming the vessel was too important to be left stranded, and while they provided some money and found a few answers, they soon realised it wasn’t going to be enough.

The task team eagerly joined hands in a two-week effort to find a sponsor for the cruise, but when they couldn’t convince potential funders there was enough time to patch the holes in the craft, they hurriedly inflated their life rafts and rejected the vessel in the harbour as it started to sink.

James Evans was adamant throughout the process that the cruise would not be cancelled, even if everyone else gave up, because his organisation was able to save the day at the press of a button.

Evans waited till the vessel’s stern was pointing skywards before abandoning ship while potential passengers, still optimistic and preparing for the annual journey, were left to shake their heads in despair.

The Soweto Marathon is no longer an ASA-registered event, but the national federation should have simply said that, rather than throwing its toys when the Trust said the event was cancelled.

Nor should it have convinced the public it would do everything in its power to ensure the race was not cancelled, brushing aside any fears that it would be scrapped.

The annual cruise is held on a battered old ship, but it provides a welcome trip for thousands, and is kept afloat by the passion from the township’s people who wave and offer support to the many eager passengers as they drift past.

Much like the “unsinkable” Titanic saw its end, it seems implausible that the multitude of people who apparently tried could not find a sponsor for the Soweto Marathon.

And while it has always had problems out at sea, it’s sad that the “People’s Race” can no longer stay afloat, let alone leave shore, lying broken and abandoned at the bottom of the harbour.