Thousands of runners registered to take part in a half marathon held as part of the Maccabiah Games on Tuesday evening had to alter their plans at the last minute – to accommodate a fussy wedding party.
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The athletes were notified over the past few days that the race would start over an hour later than was originally intended, at 21:00 and 21:20 P.M. This means that some will only complete their run at midnight.
The reason behind the delay, the e-mail messaged said, was the heat expected for the evening. Having learned a lesson from the Tel Aviv Marathon, which claimed the life of an athlete this past March, the organizers said they had the athletes' well-being in mind when they decided to push back the event.
But a conversation with one athlete revealed a different story.
"They postponed the race because of a wedding that was scheduled to be held at the Maccabiah village's venue," he told Haartez.
According to the runner, who cited a friend close to the organizing committee, the couple getting married insisted the roads in the area remain open to allow guests easy access.
The venue's management said it hadn't heard of the unusual heat that supposedly warranted a delay. The real reason for the postponement, it said, was to allow "guests and athletes to leave the village at that time." The decision was made following a discussion with the municipality.
"It was a bit of a crisis," said Rami Levy, the head of the athletics department at the Ramat Gan municipality, which is involved in planning races that pass through the city. Levy also confirmed the runner's account.
"The police got involved at one point. Listen, postponing a wedding is a big deal," he added.
The police said in response that they were "aware of the wedding and are preparing accordingly."
This is yet another testament to the unprofessional manner in which the Maccabiah has been organized. Some of the 9,000 athletes who arrived in Israel for the "Jewish Olympics" were left without accommodations, while others were struggling to find transportation to the sporting events.
"Many people are disappointed by this whole thing," said Kobi Tzvila, another participant in the half marathon. "Some people will start running at 9:20 P.M. and finish the race at midnight.
"These are regular people who have to be at work tomorrow," he added. "Who can even conceive of holding a race at that hour?"