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Updated: April 22, 2010 19:23 IST

Air chaos costs London Marathon 150,000 pounds

AP
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Three athletes who are invited to participate in the London Marathon on upcoming Sunday, from left: Kalei Pkerker, Emmanuel Mutai, Duncan Kibet, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday. Photo:AP.
Three athletes who are invited to participate in the London Marathon on upcoming Sunday, from left: Kalei Pkerker, Emmanuel Mutai, Duncan Kibet, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday. Photo:AP.

Marathon organizers have spent 150,000 pounds ($230,940) - mostly on private planes - to get competitors to the British capital for Sunday’s race after plumes of volcanic ash led to unprecedented air—travel chaos.

The bulk of bill was the 110,000 pounds spent chartering a jet to bring in athletes including defending champion Sammy Wanjiru from Nairobi, Kenya.

“It has been about making sure we maintain the value and quality of the event rather than bean counting,” race director David Bedford said on Thursday.

Wanjiru was on a jet that was chartered in Barcelona, flew to Nairobi and from there to Madrid via Eritrea, Djibouti and Luxor. The runners were finally set to land later on Thursday at London City airport on a private flight from Madrid costing 36,000 pounds.

Most of northern European airspace reopened on Tuesday night, six days after flight paths were closed by ash spewing from a volcano in Iceland.

“The majority of the costs we have taken was about us not wanting to take a chance we would not be able to get people back here,” Mr. Bedford said. “While the 150,000 pounds total sounds a lot of money, we will have (other travel) tickets which have not been used which will reduce that cost when we look at it.

“We have a contingency amount in our planning every year, and this 150,000 pounds is within that. You cannot put an event on like this without a contingency (fund).”

Organizers spent 1,400 pounds on a propeller plane to fly Mara Yamauchi, last year’s women’s runner—up, from Le Touquet in northern France.

That completed a gruelling six—day journey for the Briton, who left Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she had been training at altitude, last Thursday. She travelled with her husband Shigetoshi to Denver, only to find that flights to Europe had been cancelled, and then went to New Jersey to try to get a flight to Shannon airport in Ireland, before eventually jetting into Lisbon.

From Portugal they rented a taxi for a six—hour drive to Madrid, where they discovered there were was no space available on ferries from Spain to Portsmouth. Instead, they rented a car and drove for two days to Paris before taking a taxi to Le Touquet.

“It’s been an interesting journey to say the least and hardly the best way to prepare for the race,” Yamauchi said. “I am tired but most of all just happy to be here. Now at least I have time to relax and begin to focus my mind on the race. I am confident I will be fully recovered and ready to run by Sunday morning.”

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