Coronavirus in Scotland: Edinburgh Marathon called off

The annual Edinburgh Marathon Festival has been called off in the wake of the Scottish Government's curb on large-scale events in Scotland during the coronavirus outbreak.

More than 16,000 participants were expected to take part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival.
More than 16,000 participants were expected to take part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival.

Around 16,000 participants had been expected to take part in two days of events in May.

Organisers said they were "devastated" at having to pull the plug, but said the decision was in the best interests of participants, charity partners, the organising team and the emergency services.

They said they were planning to announce a new date for the event, which has been running since 2003, on Monday.

Along with the main marathon, which starts in Edinburgh city centre and finishes in East Lothian, the festival usually features a half marathon, 10k and 5k events, a relay race and several junior races.

The plug was pulled on the festival, which was due to be staged on 23 and 24 May, days after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for the cancellation of all events for more than 500 people if they have the "potential to impact the emergency services."

She said at the time: "We know that certain events have an impact on our policing and frontline health services.

"Our health services in particular will be under acute pressure in the weeks and months to come. I think it is incumbent on the government to do what we can to remove unnecessary burdens on our public services."

An official statement from the Edinburgh Marathon Festival said: "Amidst the ongoing concerns in regard the spread of the coronavirus and the impact this is expected to have in the UK in the weeks to come, we understand the requirement by the Scottish Government to ban mass gatherings in the interests of supporting our frontline services and public health."

Race director Neil Kilgour said: "We are devastated to have to make this decision but we believe that this course of action is in the best interests of our participants, our affiliate charities, the event team who deliver the event and the emergency services who support the event.”

“We are continuing to work closely with the local authorities in Edinburgh and East Lothian, the emergency service teams and our other delivery partners over the coming hours to secure and communicate a new date for the event which we expect to do on Monday.”

“We look forward to seeing the running community come back together, stronger than ever before. The positive nature of this event will once again change lives for the better, raise millions of pounds for charities, and will allow participants to achieve something they never dreamed possible. We will continue to support them with their endeavour during this challenging time.

We understand the training and planning that is required by participants to undertake a very personal challenge such as this, and this has been taken into account when securing a new date.

"We expect to communicate with participants and partners directly on Monday with full details of the new date."

The plug has also been pulled on the World Men’s Curling Championship, which was due to get underway at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow this month.

Billy Garrett, director of sport and events at Glasgow Life, which runs the venue, said: “We are extremely disappointed for the athletes, who we know have been training hard and were looking forward to competing in their pinnacle event of the year here in Glasgow, and for the staff and volunteers who have been working tirelessly over the last year to deliver an outstanding championship.

“We also know from the strong ticket sales for the event that its cancellation will be a huge disappointment to curling fans from home and abroad.

“However, we believe that in the current unprecedented situation this is the only responsible course of action to take.”

Meanwhile the Shetland Folk Festival, one of the biggest events in the calendar in the islands, has been forced to call off its 40th edition due to the pandemic. Acts booked to appear this year will be asked to play in 2021.

An official statement said: “We have not taken this decision lightly, but after weeks of consulting venues, musicians, stakeholders and volunteers; the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community (and those who wish to come here) must be our priority.

“We want our 40th festival to be a celebration of everything good about our islands, and recent measures such as global travel restrictions, limits on public gatherings and an understandable uncertainty amongst the most vulnerable in our community has led us to conclude that it’s better to wait another year to really do Shetland and its musical family justice.

“With most of this year’s visiting acts already confirmed for 2021, we promise we will be back with another stellar line-up and we’ll be even more hungry to welcome world-class musicians and audiences back.

“As disappointing as it may feel for everyone connected with the festival, we are aware that this situation is going to be difficult on the live music industry with many self-employed musicians, technicians and agents impacted.”

Other events called in the wake of the Scottish Government’s directive include Radio 1’s Big Weekend, which was due to be staged in Dundee in May.

Both the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe are pressing ahead with plans to stage this year’s events.

However the Fringe is drawing up contingency plans for a complete cancellation of the event in the event of a government directive.

Ms Sturgeon did not specify how long a period the restriction on large events was expected to cover.