11 July 2021, 7am
Sun 26 September 2021
Confidence, a lot of confidence, currently reigns in Berlin after the hybrid press conference that took place there in June called “The long-awaited restart of running together. Of course, safely!"
Restart Running is the name of a pilot project that is intended to guarantee the return of major running events. By staging the adidas Runners City Night, the Generali Berlin Half Marathon and the BMW Berlin-Marathon, the aim is to gain know-how and create perspectives in the period from the end of July until autumn of 2021. The knowledge gained will then be incorporated into decision-making processes for the gradual reopening of public life including all major sporting events.
The lynchpin of the pilot project is the health and hygiene concept developed by the organiser SCC Events under managing director Jurgen Lock. It amounts to almost 150 pages. For more than nine months Lock has been working on the draft with a highly competent committee of experts. At the press conference he summed it up as follows: “Since the beginning of April, based on our concept and implementation analysis, we are confident that the path we have chosen for our Restart Running is the right one. The concept is based on three elements: recovered, vaccinated, tested. The participants will have constant support through all the phases of the event so it will be easy – almost like a normal event of old.” The pneumologist and Medical Director of the Berlin Marathon, Dr. med. Matthias Krüll, who was also present, confirmed the high scientific standards of the hygiene concept and emphasised its easy practicality.
Andreas Geisel, Senator for the Interior and Sport of Berlin, confirmed that viable hygiene concepts and clear framework conditions are the key to how large sporting events can be held safely and responsibly in times of a pandemic. He concurred that participation for runners on the basis of “tested, vaccinated or recovered” seems quite possible. Senator Geisel added that “The traditional running events bring together top-level and amateur athletes in our sports metropolis. With pilot projects we gain know-how and create perspectives on how to conduct major sporting events safely and responsibly in times of a pandemic. We are taking the first steps back to normality. Things are looking good at the moment, but we seek to look into the future. Everything depends on the development of the infection statistics, including the question of whether spectators can be admitted.”
Dr. Florian Kainzinger, expert for hygiene concepts and test scenarios, referred to the great advantage of outdoor events in contrast to indoor events or seated situations. Studies from the previous weeks had shown that virus infection is an indoor problem. Physicist and aerosol researcher Dr. Gerhard Scheuch even went one step further and spoke of “open air instead of lockdowns” to further push the drop in incidences, because almost no infections occur outside closed rooms.
Marcel Altenburg (crowd management expert at Manchester Metropolitan University) is jointly responsible for the safe management of crowd flows at the world’s largest sporting events. The academic, who was connected via livestream and was visibly impressed by the hygiene concept presented, expressed his excitement about collaborating at the upcoming running events as part of the pilot project. Describing his experiences of the last few months, he said: “Since autumn 2020, we have been supporting more than 50 events worldwide through the University – all events were successful and were assessed as safe in retrospect. This shows above all the enormous influence that organisers can have on the movement of people in a controlled environment. The system in Berlin will be set up so that individuals will always have enough space to feel comfortable and be able to comply with applicable recommendations. By moving forward, each runner is constantly creating space for the next runners. This has to be coordinated. Cooperation with the local authorities is also indispensable in this regard as re-emphasised by Jürgen Lock.”