New Delhi: The organisers of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on Thursday conceded that severe air pollution at the National Capital was a concern but stuck to their guns of going ahead with the prestigious event on November 19.
The head of the organisers, Vivek Singh said they were hoping for the air quality to improve in the next few days.
"We accept there is an environmental issue and it a challenge for us. The air quality is not good at all and we are concerned about it. But we have to live with it and we are here to continue the race," Singh, the joint managing director of Procam International, said.
"ADHM is the most prestigious half marathon in the world. This is also the most attended single sports related event with 35,000 participants and cancelling this race will be a huge loss not only for sports but for the society, for this city," he told reporters at a countdown to the race event.
He said the issue of poor air quality was there last year also and the current situation will improve in the remaining 10 days. He added most of the participants would not be running long distance now (as training) and they would be in 'wind-down' period.
"There was a situation like this last year. The air quality improved towards the race day last year also. Olympic marathon champion (Eliud Kipchoge) ran and won the race last year. He also made a statement (that he wanted to run in a polluted city that that there was no need to worry).
"Instead of cancelling, the stakeholders should ensure that the race continues come what may. It is basically a green event, which encourages active participation of the citizenry and accountability of the government. It is a platform to bring environmental awareness to the society. It also raises a huge amount of money for charity. It is the collective effort of several stakeholders," he said.
Singh said that none of the elite athletes from abroad have complained or asked anything about the poor air quality till now and they all have confirmed their participation. He said three factors should dispel the doubts from certain quarters about the environmental issues and the possible harmful effect on the runners.
"Thousands of cars and trucks will not be allowed to ply at a certain distance from the course of the race 12 hours before the start. Then, salt mixed with effluent treated water will wash the course to absorb the particulate matters. Third, from whatever we are hearing from the experts we are expecting a better weather in the next few days."
Singh, however, said his organisation would mull over changing the date of the race next year onwards.
"Yes, this issue was identified last year. We will sit after this year's race and see what will be the best window available, earlier or later than this current window."
Meanwhile, 35,000 runners will take part in the race, out of which 13,000 will be in the elite and amateur category. The USD 2,75,000 event will have four race categories -- Half Marathon (elite and amateur), Great Delhi Run, 10K Run, Senior Citizens and Champions with Disability.
This year's race will witness a supreme battle between the best of Indian and international elite athletes. The men's elite race will see world marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui (2:08:27). Yigrem Delemash, the runner-up of last edition of ADHM, will challenge him for the title.
The defending women's champion Worknesh Degefa (67:42) will also be in action along with the women's 10,000m world champion and Rio Olympics winner Almaz Ayana.
The Indian challenge, on the other hand, will be led by men's defending champion G Lakshmanan who will be challenged by 2015 edition winner Nitender Singh Rawat.
Olympian and Asian Athletics Championship 3000m steeplechase gold medallist Sudha Singh will be headlining the elite Indian women's line up.
This year's race will have eight Olympians, four of whom will be Indians.
Four-time Olympic medallist swimmer Anthony Ervin will be the event ambassador while British sprint legend Linford Christie, who is being brought by Puma, will also be present on the race day.(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)