Public feedback about 2019's edition of the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) has been taken seriously, according to a written reply by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
"We will work with the event organiser and relevant agencies to study these points," she wrote while conceding that the initial years of the marathon would cause inconveniences to members of the public.
Fu was responding to questions from three members of parliament regarding the disruptions caused by the marathon — held as an evening race for the first time.
According to Fu, this was to "create more conducive running conditions and a better race experience for participants."
However, it also led to massive traffic jams due to road closures on the Nov. 29 and Dec. 1.
Measures put in place
"From the onset, SportSG and the organisers Ironman Asia recognised that the evening timing would be a complex and major undertaking and took the preparations seriously," wrote Fu.
To mitigate inconvenience to the public and develop traffic plans, Fu indicated that a joint operations committee that involved the organisers as well as government agencies.
This included agencies such as the Land Transport Authority and the Traffic Police, and a "detailed traffic impact study was conducted".
Additional measures — taking into account concurrent events such as Irish rock band U2's concert at the Singapore Sports Hub and the Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay — were put in place.
"In the weeks leading up to the race, the event organiser ramped up road closure announcements on mainstream and social media platforms. It also beefed up call centre operations to address public queries on the road closures."
500 auxiliary police officers were also deployed on the day of the marathon to advise on alternative routes and redirect traffic at critical road junctions.
Raising the profile of the marathon
Fu wrote that the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and SportSG had aspirations for the SCSM to be seen alongside iconic marathons as a World Marathon Majors event.
The World Marathon Majors includes events such as the Boston, London, and Tokyo marathons.
She explained the government's support for the SCSM as "an opportunity to enhance the significance of the event for Singapore from a social, sporting and economic perspective".
"In Singapore, our runners participate in the SCSM to celebrate their resilience and purpose," wrote Fu, expounding on the merits of the event.
"There is a growing number championing worthwhile causes, such as those helping to raise awareness and funds for people with Parkinson's and the disadvantaged in society. We would like to embrace a spirit of care, inclusion and resilience in our society by encouraging more Singaporeans to be a part of this year-end event."
Member of parliaments had asked Fu about the reasons for the traffic jams and about preventive measures to be introduced in the future.
In particular, Lee Bee Wah had asked
- On what grounds had the road closure and diversion plans been approved
- Whether consideration has been given to other major events happening downtown that weekend
- How did MCCY intend to review and enhance regulations and requirements for such future events
- Whether the Ministry has conducted a comparative review of the issues and disruptions
- What were the learning points, and what would be the changes introduced to the 2020 edition of SCSM
Liang Eng Hwa asked:
- What were the reasons for the massive jams
- Why the situation had not been anticipated
- What were the lessons learned
- How can such massive jams be avoided in future large scale events
Demond Choo asked:
- How would MCCY balance the supporting of major sporting events and inconvenience to road users
- How can commercial organisers be made liable to mitigate against severe congestion
- Whether organisers who failed to address road congestion issues previously would be prevented from running similar events in the future
Fu wrote that the ministry would continue to work on improving how future editions of the marathon were organised.
She also recognised that the initial years would see inconveniences caused to stakeholders and members of the public.
"We hope that with the support of Singaporeans and by working closely with partners, we can build up the SCSM into an event that all Singaporeans can be proud of and look forward to."
Top image from Roads.sg and screenshot from Singaporemarathon.com