Heavy casualties at a recent cross-country running event have hit China's booming running industry with a painful alert as the governing body calls for more prudent risk management and contingency plans at future events.
Twenty-one marathoners, including some of China's most elite runners, died in extreme weather during an annual mountain ultramarathon, in Baiyin, Gansu province, on Sunday. Another eight were hospitalized for minor injuries, and the rest were rescued safe and sound.
The tragedy came after a round of hail, freezing rain and high winds caught 172 lightly dressed marathon runners off guard on Saturday as they were racing across winding mountainous tracks in the central part of Gansu.
The General Administration of Sport of China (GASC) hosted an emergency meeting on Sunday calling for better risk management, more comprehensive contingency plans and a stronger sense of responsibility for event organizers to prevent the reoccurrence of tragedies such as this incident in Baiyin in the future.
"Everyone should be aware of the seriousness and complexity of the safety and risk management work in sports events, and we should know there are still many problems to be solved," said Gou Zhongwen, director of the GASC, during the Sunday meeting, according to the China Sports Daily.
"Sports events have always been a focus of our people and many communities in society. Sports events are closely connected with people's daily lives and they are a bridge to communicate with the world. Any management mistakes could cause safety incidents and huge losses."
Gou said that different sports could have different types of risks. Also the large number of participants would demand higher requirements in safety management work. The ability of different organizers to ensure the safety and quality of sports events is different. And uncontrollable factors, such as the extreme weather in Baiyin, would make the safety work more complicated.
That's why the organizers should have stronger sense of responsibility and better contingency plans for all emergencies.
"All levels of the sports administration have been working actively in sports event safety work, and have created a stable environment for sports development. However, with the further reform and development of the sports industry, there are new requirements for supervisory work."