Monday, July 21, 2014

Fair Play: Ironing out Ironman kinks

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's July 19 edition)
ONE of the most memorable images in the 2013 edition of the Ironman 70.3 wasn’t that of an athlete but a group of passengers carrying their luggage up the Marcelo Fernan bridge, caught unaware of the closure of the vital link to Lapu-Lapu City.

Organizers say they have had several information blasts regarding road and bridge closures for the Ironman but even if they’d do it daily, there would still be people who’d be caught by surprised.

The Ironman is held in Cebu because of its location as a travel hub, making it easy for participants to fly in; that’s also one reason why there were photos of those passengers caught unawares, looking miserable as they haul their heavy luggages.

Our photographer said those in the picture came from the pier and knew nothing about the Ironman and the subsequent road closure. Others caught unaware were those who flew in to Cebu that day.

With that in mind, the information blast by organizers regarding any road closure shouldn’t be limited to Cebu, but to those airports and piers that connects to Cebu.

Aside, from the free marketing if they put posters in airports and piers all over the country, the move shows they are concerned with the welfare of those who might be accepted.

Besides, it’s either do that or get cursed for catering only to “rich folks’ sport.”

Another problem from last year was the traffic gridlock in the other bridge because those who knew about the bridge closure all took the other bridge. I know of one wife who got an angry call from a husband because while he was staring at bumper to bumper traffic in the other bridge, only a few cars were seen traveling in the other bridge.

They knew the bridge was going to be closed and assumed it was going to remain closed the whole day.

With a cut-off time in all three legs of the Ironman--based online, bike lanes will remain closed six hours after actual start of race--the route won’t be closed the whole day.

By the way, what do events like the Ironman contribute to the local folk? Well, to be honest, unless you’re part of the hotel industry, or are hired as one of the support crew or marshalls, you get nothing and there’s no immediate effect for you.

But there’s a long-term gain—events like these always have—and it’s all about promoting Cebu as a holiday destination. Incidentally, those who may turn the tide are those not involved in the tourism industry.

Those who work for hotels and tourist-related sites are trained to be helpful and hospitable, but based on reactions from participants online, they’ve been impressed by the hospitality, the ready smiles and the willingness to help of the everyday folk.

That sari-sari store owner, that buko vendor who gave Jenson Button his first try and those free cheers they got from those who lined the road.

So to the folks who may experience some inconveniences on the road, just a little sacrifice. Besides, it’s not every day that the world’s best converge in your city.

MEDIA BOYCOTT. I heard that due to a rude member of the organizing staff last year who threatened to physically haul photographers and cameramen, one media outfit is boycotting this year’s edition.

I think we can avoid another incident like that if there would be proper communication between media handlers and local media. Any misunderstanding, of course, can be settled by cool heads, not by threatening folks they would be physically hauled, right?

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