Mountain Races and Ultramarathons Temporarily Suspended in China

According to Chinese news sources, the Chinese General Administration of Sport (GAS) has suspended a range of events in what are deemed high-risk sports, including mountain trail races and ultramarathons (along with wing-suit events) in the wake of the last month’s Yellow River Stone Forest 100k at which 21 runners died (our full article on the tragedy) as well as deaths at least two other off-road events. The suspension will be in place while the GAS conducts a comprehensive review of sports events, improves their management system, improves standards and regulations, and attempts to comprehensively strengthen the management and the safety of sporting events. The government-imposed suspension follows the cancelation and postponement of numerous sports events in the weeks that have followed the Yellow River Stone Forest tragedy.

Google translates the GAS announcements as,

The general offices of the people’s governments of all provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government, and the General Office of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps: On May 22, a public safety incident occurred in the 100-kilometer cross-country race in the Yellow River Stone Forest in Baiyin City, Gansu Province due to sudden changes in local weather, causing heavy casualties. The lesson was very painful. In order to effectively protect the health and safety of the people, from now on, we will temporarily suspend emerging high-risk sports events with unclear management responsibilities, imperfect rules, and unclear safety protection standards, such as mountain cross-country, Gobi crossing, wing-mounted flying, and ultra-long distance running. The General Administration of Sports will conduct a comprehensive review of sports events, accelerate the improvement of the management system, improve standards and regulations, and comprehensively strengthen the management and guarantee of the safety of sports events.

All localities must strictly implement non-essential non-match requirements, adhere to bottom line thinking, enhance risk awareness, strengthen territorial management responsibilities, and take practical and effective measures to prevent and defuse risks. It is necessary to carry out a comprehensive risk investigation of all competition activities around organizational operations, service guarantees, safety management, emergency rescue, epidemic prevention and control, geological conditions, meteorological factors, etc., and to suspend all potential safety hazards, and strictly prevent the occurrence of safety incidents in the sports field. To welcome the 100th anniversary of the founding of the party, create a good environment and atmosphere.

General Office of the General Administration of Sports
May 28, 2021

The South China Morning Post adds,

The statement also said that races will now also be suspended at the first sign of danger and safety accidents must be prevented from happening again.

No timeline has been given and it is unclear what races are included under the broad categories mentioned in the announcement, but the suspension is likely to apply to most races held outside urban areas and not on asphalted roads, as well as 12- and 24-hour races, and road races longer than the marathon distance.

The Beijing Business Post adds some context to the current decentralization of race oversight in China,

It is worth noting that in the “Several Opinions on Accelerating the Development of Sports Industry to Promote Sports Consumption” issued by the State Council in 2014, the examination and approval of mass and commercial sports events were cancelled. After decentralizing the approval power of the State General Administration of Sport, the management and service capabilities of most regions have not kept up, which to some extent has created a vacuum area for the supervision of sports events.

Industry insiders believe that the standardized management and strict supervision of the current situation of the emerging high-risk sports event industry is bound to become the “umbrella” for the safety of sports events in the future.

The Beijing Business Daily also adds that even road races from 5ks to the marathon will require renewed oversight,

The State General Administration of Sport requires that all localities should immediately organize and carefully sort out and investigate road races (including marathons, half marathons, 10 kilometers, 5 kilometers, etc.) in their administrative areas, strictly follow the competition organization standards and relevant requirements of the China Athletics Association, carry out “one-on-one” verification, and implement “an” Full risk prevention and control plan, emergency response plan, epidemic prevention and control plan and event organization plan”. Report the time of the event, the project setting, whether the scale of the event meets the relevant requirements to the provincial competent department and the China Athletics Association for the record. In accordance with the competition organization standards and related requirements of the China Athletics Association, road running events with the above four plans must be submitted to the provincial competent department to which the competition belongs and approved before it can be held. If the competition does not meet the requirements, it must be suspended, targeted rectification shall be carried out, and the rectification situation shall be reported to the provincial competent department for examination and verification.

Sources for additional information on the suspension of events:

Snow covered boardwalk Shuangqiao Valley

Snow-covered boardwalk a few miles into the course of Ultra-Tour Mount Siguniang, an event in China that may be affected by these event suspensions. Photo: iRunFar

[Editor’s Note: We’ll continue to update this story as more information becomes available.]