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Discussion: XTrail...

in: Adventure Racing; General

Jun 1, 2018 11:00 PM # 
Wow. So a cryptic video announcement posted on the ARWS facebook page. The report is that the race has been delayed/postponed (Both words used), but it's not clear why. Only that it's not the RDs...

Supposedly an update is coming at 10AM local time...trying to figure out when that is...
Jun 1, 2018 11:01 PM # 
I think it's 8AM?
Jun 1, 2018 11:11 PM # 
handy ?
Jun 2, 2018 12:51 AM # 
And it looks like they removed the video clip I saw…huh…something is afoot.
Jun 2, 2018 1:54 AM # 
i saw it too broots. it was bob mclachlan at race HQ, stating that the teams were expecting to receive maps at this time but race org was not handing out due to delay beyond its control. and to check back st 10AM local time.
Jun 2, 2018 5:58 AM # 
Holy bag o' shit, Batman! Cyanosis race media posted that the race was cancelled basically at the start line: "Race cancelled. Sad news coming out of China, due to security reasons it seems the race has been cancelled more or less on the start line. Teams woke up to board the buses that would take them to the start only to be told they would be going nowhere."
Jun 2, 2018 12:16 PM # 
I know! I mostly am shocked, though it sounds clear from various posts that this was a government move, and this would not be the first time the Chinese government acted with such a lack of concern and in such a decisive manner. Altay is remote and while I don't know much about it, I'm guessing it is not ethnically homogenous (i.e., it is a region that came under the expansive, imperialist control of China under Mao when the CCP took power). Hence, I would not be surprised if the security issues that are vaguely being referenced really have something to do with politics and the government deciding they didn't want foreigners running around.

This is the history teacher in me speculating. And it would not surprise me if the official word from the RDs remains vague and we never learn what really happened.

It's a shame, because I'm guessing this isn't the RDs fault in the least, but they will pay the price. Not only are those rumors about Worlds coming to China likely shot, but will they ever be able to produce a race like this again? Definitely on my bucket list, so I'm bummed to probably cross it off without doing it. But not as bummed as those folks who invested their time and money into getting there.

The final mystery: Was the disappearance of Bob M's video yesterday ARWS's doing, or China's? Censorship of media and social media fits right in with my thoughts on "security issues".
Jun 2, 2018 4:38 PM # 
yes it'll be a big ask if the race happens again for teams to take another chance w the expense of travel, race entry, etc. i wonder what reimbursements they will consider for this year. hopefully at least race entry???
Jun 2, 2018 10:40 PM # 
Jun 3, 2018 12:00 AM # 
While I'm no expert on China, I remember reading that the Altay region is typically closed to tourists. The area is home to the Uighur ethnic group, and they've had a lot of strife with the Chinese government.

I hope this isn't the case, but there's potential that the race, which brought high-profile foreign athletes and their attendant media, could have been targeted as a potential way to draw attention to the region's problems.

Again, just pure speculation on my part.
Jun 4, 2018 12:20 PM # 
Jun 4, 2018 12:36 PM # 
Jun 4, 2018 12:41 PM # 
**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.

An excerpt:
"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.
Jun 4, 2018 4:26 PM # 
Well said Brent.
Jun 4, 2018 5:38 PM # 
Jun 7, 2018 12:37 PM # 
Nathan’s take on it.

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