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Busted running events: some of the biggest race flops ever

A lot of running events are hits, both for the fans and the athletes, but races don't always turn out as planned

Nike Breaking2

It’s every event organizer’s worst nightmare: to plan and plan—sometimes for years—only for their event to bomb. Whether problems arise because of unforeseen circumstances or because of poor planning, an event can go from a success to a bust overnight. In a year where it looks like very few events will be held—at least in the near future—we decided to look at some of the biggest busted events in running history. 

Nike Breaking2
Photo: Nike.


Nike’s Breaking2 project was of course exciting, with Eliud Kipchoge running a 2:00:25 marathon, but this event could still be considered a bust, due to the lack of people present to witness it. Nike held the run at a Formula One race track in Italy, where the stands could have been packed with fans (the facility can hold over 100,000 people), but only a handful of people were there in person. Last fall, at the INEOS 1:59 challenge when Kipchoge ran a 1:59:40 marathon in Vienna, Austria, the organizers did a much better job and the streets were lined with thousands of fans cheering Kipchoge on.

RELATED: PHOTOS: On the ground at Nike’s Breaking2 two-hour marathon attempt

2019 World Athletics Championships

The 2019 World Athletics Championships were held in Doha, Qatar, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. The stadium has a capacity of 40,000, but the seats were hardly filled at any point throughout the event. The Guardian reported that tickets for the event cost around $22 each, but even the low prices couldn’t entice people to buy. Organizers ultimately gave free tickets to busloads of people to try and fill as many seats as possible.

Khalifa International Stadium. Photo: Instagram.

Sapporo Olympic events

In October, the IOC announced a decision to move the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walking events to Sapporo, a city 800 kilometres away from Tokyo. This decision was made due to a fear that it would be too hot and humid in Tokyo for those long-distance events. Although the safety of athletes was taken into consideration for this decision, it didn’t sit well with many of the athletes. The event hasn’t even happened yet, but because of the IOC’s decision, this can be considered a bust, too.

RELATED: IOC reveals Sapporo 2020 Olympic marathon course

2011 World Championships

The 2011 World Championships were held in Daegu, South Korea, and although there was nothing wrong with the event itself, it was a bust because of the number of doping violations at the championships. A total of 50 athletes were disqualified in Daegu, and 10 medals were stripped as a result of doping violations. There wouldn’t have been much that event organizers could’ve done to prevent this bust, but that’s the unpredictability of event planning—sometimes problems arise that are out of your control.

RELATED: Canadian doping tests on hold during COVID-19

Ultimate bust: the Tokyo Olympics

Sticking with the Olympic theme, the ultimate bust would have to be the Tokyo Olympics in general. Tokyo’s been slated to hold the Summer Olympics on three occasions: 1940, 1964 and 2020. The Games went ahead as scheduled in 1964, but they were cancelled in 1940 due to World War II. This year, they were postponed until summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Organizers were not at fault in either of these cases, but cancelling and postponing the Olympics definitely qualifies as a bust. At least this time around Tokyo will still get to host the event, just a little later than planned.