VIENTIANE, Laos, 3 March 2020: Laos abruptly cancelled the capital city’s annual half marathon just a day before it was due to take place on the 1 March.
Runners were told they would not get a registration fee refund, but they could pick up participation medals and food at the event’s starting line early in the morning on 1 March.
Cancelling the event and then inviting participants to turn up for medals and refreshments appeared to defeat the stated objective of authorities which was to eliminate the crowd and the risk of spreading Covid-19 in Laos a country that currently has no reported cases.
The last-minute change of heart that cancelled the 5th Vientiane International Half Marathon 2020 came from the country’s Elite Sports Department of the Ministry of Education and Sports.
In its statement, 29 February widely circulated on Facebook, the sports department said the cancellation order “prevented the risk of COVID-19 which is rapidly spreading in many countries around the world including our neighbouring countries.”
“In these unprecedented circumstances, we are not able to offer runners a refund of their entry fees,” the department explained.
VIHM’s organisers signed off with the invite “hope to see you at our next event.”