Updated 7.35pm, adds PN statement
A national marathon has been cancelled after organisers and the authorities clashed over the proposed route.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Malta Marathon Organising Committee said the 2022 race, which was meant to be held on March 6, has been cancelled.
They said the decision was taken following a meeting with Transport Malta earlier on Tuesday over the proposed route.
“Whilst we fully respect Transport Malta's authority, we cannot adopt a route that has been declared as unacceptable by Mater Dei's Emergency Department, the Malta Red Cross and the Malta Traffic Police due to safety concerns,” the event organisers said.
They said the race had followed the same route for several years.
The organisers had asked the regulator to approve its route for the last time and undertook to discuss a new one for subsequent years.
They also committed to starting the event an hour earlier to mitigate any traffic concerns. However, their request was rejected.
The main objection to the usual route was the closure of arterial roads to traffic after 10.30am.
The organisers said they had proposed a way to have all participants out of the arterial routes by that time, however, this was also refused.
Another factor forcing the cancellation of the marathon, they said, were COVID-19 restrictions for sporting events.
Although these rules were updated on Friday, they still preclude the race from being held.
The organisers said application and transport fees paid by runners would be refunded.
Only last week, a number of social media comments insinuated that the Intersport La Valette Malta Marathon, which has been given the green light to take place on April 24, was being given preferential treatment.
Intersport La Valette Malta Marathon however organisers denied the claims and said they have "utmost respect" for Malta Marathon.
News of the Malta Marathon cancellation was met with disappointment from Malta’s running community.
“Can't believe this has been cancelled, I've done the race five times and it has always been so well organised and a great event,” Joe Worthington said.
Others said they had planned to travel for the occasion.
“What an absolute joke. Paid for my family to come out to Malta, no way I can get my money back for the flights! Never again will I consider coming to Malta,” Facebook user Marc Potter said.
In a statement, the Nationalist Party expressed disappointment that the marathon was cancelled and insisted on an immediate solution for the event, which attracted thousands of people, to be held.
The decision, it said, reflected how much Prime Minister Robert Abela was cut off from what the people wanted.