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Party time as city goes cycling

Johannesburg was a big sporting party at best and a muddle of disarray at worst, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2006 19:36 IST

Massive mix-ups don’t happen only in India. The city of Johannesburg was one massive sporting party at best and a muddle of confusion at worst on Sunday — and not particularly because of the cricket.

The 10th edition of what is reputed to be the world’s second biggest cycle race, the Pick n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge, was staged on Sunday here. Over 28,000 cyclists took part and the whole city was shut down for it.

Interestingly, the sponsors of this edition, a big local radio station called 94.7, are also the sponsors of the Gauteng Cricket Club, who run the Wanderers. However, according to locals, everyone concerned failed to realise till too late that the match day would clash with the race.

This, incidentally, is why the match was moved from a day game to a day-night game — if it had not been moved (the race began at 5 a.m. and was over by 1 p.m.), no one would have been able to get to the Wanderers as it is slap bang in the middle of the streets that were shut down, some for part of the day, some for the whole day.

The Cycle Challenge is quite a carnival day, something everyone looks forward to, but this year was special because it was telecast live for the first time. A lot of people, including local media who live across town, had difficulty getting across to the Wanderers in time because some of the roads opened only after the race ended at 1 p.m. — the match was scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.

In fact, another reason the match had to be shifted to being a day-night affair was because, on cricket match day in any case, some roads are shut and manned by the cops, like in India. In this case, no cops were available for cricket because practically everyone was put on cycling duty.

Cricket South Africa says they could not really say no to Gauteng (and the sponsors) as they had applied for the first game and then, when they said they would change the venue, the BCCI apparently objected.

Some of the CSA officials themselves, like the media manager, took part in the race.

It’s open to the public and everyone joins in for a massive party on wheels.

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