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The Rural Fire Service has assured Sydney Marathon organisers air quality in the city will be significantly improved for the race on Sunday morning, easing concerns about the potential impact of thick smoke haze on 17,000 runners.
A record number of entrants will take part in the marathon, with a re-designed course beginning at Milsons Point and winding through Pyrmont, the CBD and Moore Park, before finishing at the Opera House. Elite stars, including former men’s world champion Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia and Australian record holders Brett Robinson and Sinead Diver, are in the field.
But the smoke haze that has settled on Sydney this week, which is the result of RFS hazard reduction burns in the Sutherland Shire, Ku-ring-gai, the Hawkesbury, Hornsby and the Central Coast, has caused concern for runners and organisers, along with forecast hot weather over the weekend.
Sydney was rated as one of world’s worst five cities for air quality on Wednesday morning, according to air pollution monitoring site IQAir, before conditions improved in the afternoon. Residents were warned on Tuesday to avoid exercise and keep windows shut, while rugby league officials have made the decision to move a Thursday NRLW fixture from Campbelltown to Leichhardt due to concerns over air quality.
But the concern of marathon officials about thousands of runners having to endure smoky conditions was eased during meetings with the RFS and NSW Health, said Sydney Marathon race director Wayne Larden.
“We have engaged with RFS and the RFS have advised us the major burns that were causing the haze have finished,” he said.
Bushfire smoke hangs over Sydney.Credit: Nine
“Their modelling is showing the air quality will improve dramatically by Friday and Saturday, and be relatively good on Sunday. So from an air quality perspective, it is looking good.
“They are working on schedules on planned burns and we went through a few areas of concern that we had, which satisfied us, because most of those areas have already finished as well.
“They were pretty proactive and pretty supportive of the event, and understood the need and desire for good air quality. They’ve been very helpful.”
In the NRLW, Wests Tigers’ round-nine clash against ladder-leading Newcastle will be held at Leichhardt Oval on Thursday night, rather than at its original venue Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Sydney has been contending with a blanket of smoke for much of this week.Credit: Nine News
Campbelltown City Council informed the NRL on Wednesday that hazard reduction burning in Sydney’s south-west could make outdoor activity unsafe.
“The decision to relocate the match to Leichhardt has been made to prioritise the safety of patrons and players,” a statement from Wests Tigers said.
Sydney Marathon is bidding to become the seventh World Marathon Major, which would see it added to the list of the world’s iconic 42.195-kilometre races like Boston, London, New York and Berlin.
If successful, Sydney Marathon would likely attract tens of thousands of entrants every year, with huge numbers of runners aiming to run all the majors.
Runners passing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.Credit: Brendon Thorne
Even with clearer air, however, runners will have to contend with unseasonably warm weather on the weekend, with forecasts of 30 degrees expected on Saturday.
Temperatures are tipped to be lower during the race the next morning, and organisers hope a southerly change forecast mid-morning will bring cooler conditions. But extra water stations and more medical support have been added to the course route as precautions.
“We take your safety and well-being seriously, and we understand that while there are many aspects we can control, unfortunately, the weather is not one of them. We share your excitement for the prospect of clear skies this weekend, but we are also mindful of the expected high temperatures that may accompany them,” Sydney Marathon posted on its social media channels.
“In light of the forecasted temperatures, we want to reassure you that we are actively collaborating with our dedicated team to enhance safety measures across all of our events this weekend. Your comfort and safety are our top priorities.”
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