The disaster that caused the death of 21 ultra trail athletes on May 22 is said to be stemming from the mentality of the organizers of extreme sports events that prioritize profit over safety of athletes.

“The number of athletes who died in this competition exceeded 10% of the number of athletes participating. A thorough investigation is required to find out the cause, to hold the parties involved accountable to the victims and to justice. The loss of 21 lives should be a sufficient warning to everyone,” the announcement on May 23 of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) – China’s top discipline watchdog – has paragraph.

An unfortunate victim was taken from the scene by rescue forces.  Photo: AFP

An unfortunate victim was taken from the scene by rescue forces. Image: AFP

In this notice, the CCDI also criticized organizers for being too greedy to profit from extreme sports events without taking appropriate safety measures for participants. According to the agency, in April 2021 alone, about 30 marathons took place across China, attracting nearly 300,000 athletes. “Everyone wants to make money from the explosion of the endurance sports movement, but some events are gradually cutting costs,” CCDI commented.

The 100km distance of the Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon – a run that takes place in the Yellow Forest National Geopark in Gansu Province – is one of the most challenging events in Chinese sports history, and attracts 172 runners. Join May 22. The prizes for the first and second places are nearly 2500 USD and nearly 2000 USD respectively, while the top 10 athletes will receive 300 USD, and the athletes who complete the distance within the allotted time (finisher) will receive 248 USD in money. reward.

“Have the organizers carefully considered the risks involved? Are you sure that athletes are fully equipped and know the safety rules to deal with inclement weather?” These are the questions asked by the CCDI after the disaster that killed 21 ultra trail athletes on May 22.

Most athletes competing in the 100km distance that day did not bring warm clothes. So when they get caught in the rain and frost on the mountain trails, most of them have hypothermia due to lack of preparation. Even the experienced are not spared from the sudden turn of the weather. Liang Jing, China’s number one long-distance runner, and Huang Guanjun – the Chinese 10,000m Paralympic champion who once ran a full marathon with a record of 2 hours and 38 minutes – were among the 21 ill-fated victims.

Huang Guanjun shared a moment on the track in Gansu in the last photo posted on social media before his death.  Photo: 163

Huang Guanjun shared a moment on the track in Gansu in the last photo posted on social media before his death. Image: 163

According to survivors, the trail is 8km long, at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters above sea level, without any support stations. The terrain in this area is also too steep, so motorbikes cannot reach.

According to the Beijing NewsIn this disaster, the story of a shepherd named Zhu Keming is mentioned as luck for the six athletes to be saved. On the afternoon of May 22, while resting in a mountain cave, Zhu was awakened by the loud screams of the athletes. This shepherd immediately took them to the shelter, put on a blanket, and lit a fire in the cave. Zhang Xiaotao – the sixth person to be rescued – said that Zhu carried him into the cave, after finding him unconscious on the street.

“The rain was like hail, each patch hit my body very painfully. I have never seen such a weather pattern before. There were no trees around and just ravines below. It was really very nice. dangerous,” added Zhang.

From about 12 o’clock on May 22, many athletes began to send signals for help on the Wechat group. 20 people were sent to the scene by the organizers. However, these callers were in the group behind the elite athletes who started first. And due to the sporadic calls for help, the organizers did not fully imagine the danger of many athletes, when the temperature on the mountain was only about 1 degree Celsius at that time.

Rescue work was difficult and delayed because of harsh road conditions after rain and cold weather.  Photo: Xinhua

Rescue work was difficult and delayed because of harsh road conditions after rain and cold weather. Image: Xinhua

It was not until late in the afternoon that the organizers asked for help from the authorities, offering to support the search and rescue of the athletes. By evening, about 1200 people and many advanced search equipment were deployed, but the inclement weather – the temperature dropped deeply, the road was slippery because of the rain from the afternoon, it took them about three hours to reach the present location. school.

From the late evening of May 22 to the late afternoon of May 23, the rescue force found all 172 athletes. But 21 of them died, only 151 people were rescued, including 8 injured.

The tragedy shook the Chinese sports community and the world. At a press conference on May 23, the representative of the Baiyin city government and a member of the running organizing committee, Mr. Zhang Xuchen bowed his head in apology to the athletes and their families.

The race in Gansu province has been going on for 4 years, organized by the Jingtai county government and Baiyin city. Operated by Gansu Shengjing Sports Culture Development Company. According to reports, the company has 22 employees, mainly engaged in advertising, marketing and sporting events.

The Baiyin city government, then, called on places to learn from the tragedy. They also worked with the families of the 21 victims to arrange compensation. According to the Thepaper.cn, an online portal, families will split a 10 million yuan (about $1.55 million) insurance payout.

An injured athlete was taken from the scene by rescue workers.

An injured athlete was taken from the scene by rescue workers.

Local governments in China have also asked event organizers to suspend all outdoor sports tournaments, until further notice. An anonymous expert told the newspaper South China Morning Post, which can lead to higher costs of organizing outdoor events later on, as more funding is needed for lifeguards and safety measures.

Xuan Thang synthetic


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