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Stockholm marathon admits 'naive' prize plan

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Stockholm marathon admits 'naive' prize plan
Benjamin Bitok from Kenya won Stockholm Marathon last year. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT
07:30 CEST+02:00
UPDATED: Stockholm marathon organizers have said that any non-Nordic runners to finish among the top six in the race will be offered prize money and described a previous announcement that only Nordic entrants would be entitled to the cash as "quite naive".

“This year the Stockholm Marathon is primarily a competition between the Nordic countries, and to encourage runners from these countries organizers decided that the prize sums will only be awarded to Nordic runners,” Kristina Rosenberg, spokeswoman for the organizers, told AFP on Wednesday.

“It's to give them an incentive,” she said, adding that the initiative was only for this year's race and not a permanent feature.

Marathon organizers also told Sweden's Expressen newspaper that they would not actively invite any African runners to compete in the race, despite athletes from the continent winning the men's contest for 13 years in a row.

But on Thursday, press officer Lorenzo Nesi told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) if any non-Nordic runners did decide to enter the race and finished among the top six, they would be entitled to a cash prize. 

"It it is quite unlikely that it will happen. But if that happens we'll open our wallet even though we do not really have the budget for it," he said.

He later admitted on the BBC's Sportsworld radio programme that officials had made a mistake, describing their actions as "quite naive".

21,500 runners from all over the world are set to take part in the marathon including six Kenyans and Ethiopians, according to DN. According to the race's website, there are still 2,500 places left in the race.

The total prize pot amounts to 250,000 kronor ($28,640).

The previous announcement by organizers suggested that regardless of their overall placement, the first Nordic male and female runners to cross the finish line would each win 50,000 kronor, with other sums awarded for the first six Nordic runners to cross the finish line.

But if a non-Nordic runner won the marathon, he or she would walk away with only a medal and no money. The announcement implied that runners from outside the region ranking among the other top six contestants by time, would also be denied prize cash.

The last Nordic athlete to win the men's marathon was Sweden's Anders Szalkai, in 2001, while Sweden's Isabellah Andersson won the women's race every year between 2008 and 2014 with the exception of 2012.

The best result in the 35-year history of the Stockholm Marathon was achieved by British runner Hugh Jones, who in 1983 came in at 2:11:37.

The initial decision to only award prize money to Nordic competitors was announced in November last year, went largely unnoticed in Sweden until this week.

Swedish middle and long distance champion Rizak Dirshe told the Expressen newspaper on Thursday that he was sceptical about the move.

“It's like they want to kill the Stockholm Marathon. It's absurd. Nordic guys and girls who want to run faster, what are they going to do? They have to have some competition,” he said.

The news stirred debate across the border in Norway too, with a Norwegian sport writer hitting out on the site Sporten.com.

"It's as close to racism as you can get," wrote Andreas Selliaas.

The Stockholm marathon became the fourth largest marathon in Europe in 2014, with 16,076 finishers.

New York is the largest in the world with 50,403 finishers last year.

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