**Disclaimer: my rant below is not a reaction to ANYTHING that has been said by anybody really. Maybe it's more anticipatory of some of the complaining I imagine will pop up. I have seen one or two harsh facebook comments from people not even there about the RDs...on with the rant...
A reflection from Sleepmonsters.http://www.sleepmonsters.com/news.php?article_id=6...
"A couple of teams have commented about the requirement to always carry passports and permits, and one said that in the strange atmosphere following the cancellation racers were forbidden to speak to native Kazakhs and other minorities, of which there are many. The race was set in the Xinjiang region which borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and several other smaller countries – it’s very politically sensitive.
Recently it has become more so, and this seems most likely to have been the reason behind the cancellation. I just put Xinjiang into Google and the results headlined 3 news stories, all from within the past few days.
China Has Turned Xinxjiang into a Police State Like No Other – The Ecomomist
Kazakhstan Confronts China Over Disappearances – RFE/RL
China’s Uyghur Repression – Jacobin"
Sounds like China's treatment of this region has some similarities to that of Tibet (which is horrendous), and this year's race came at an unfortunate time of increased tension.
I do think that everyone SHOULD be upset about the situation and I do hope X-Trail and China does the right thing here and gives the money back. That said, I personally don't think that this reflects on ARWS as a whole. I do question whether ARWS signing on to run a race in a more politically sensitive country or region is a wise idea, and I suspect we will never see such a race again under the ARWS banner. But the rest of the ARWS series is a different matter, and I don't know how you blame ARWS, and to some degree the RDs, if all was permitted and the government took such actions that would never happen in 90% of the rest of the world.
I hope the AR community moves on from this in a disappointed but compassionate manner. I can only imagine how absolutely awful this must be for the RDs. I know that this sucks in many ways for the racers, but the RDs have put in exponentially more time and resources. Worst case scenario for the racers is they lose several thousand dollars, and yes, training time and vacation time, and god-forbid ARWS ranking points. I suspect that the RDs will lose far, far more; they may lose their company, and even if they don't, their reputation is likely forever tarnished with international racers. As an RD myself, I can imagine how absolutely crushed they must feel, trusting that they did everything properly.
I give ARWS and XTrail a lot of credit for trying to bring AR to not only a new country but a new continent on the scale that they tried to. I know how excited everyone was when it was announced that an event was running in China and in particular on the fringes of Mongolia; it was a bold move (especially in hindsight), and I can't say I'm shocked it has ended this way; I give them credit for trying. It's probably a good lesson to remember: history, politics, and local realities matter and are, in my opinion, far more important than whether we foreign adventurers get to run around in the mountains for five days. I do think that many adventure travelers take this for granted.
I am sorry for all those racers and race officials involved in this fiasco. But I am more sorry for the ethnic minorities who are living under the thumb of a government that continues to rule with an iron fist in the non-Chinese regions of the country. Let's not lose track of the fact that this issue that cost a bunch of our fellow racers a couple weeks of time, some lost ARWS ranking points and yes, potentially several thousand dollars (though it does sound like much of the cost might end up being reimbursed) pales in comparison to the complete absence of political rights and self-determination that characterizes daily life in this place many of us wanted to visit for the sake of play.