It is with huge disappointment that the organisers of the 2021 edition of the aQuellé Midmar Mile have been forced to make a last minute decision to transfer all 2021 entries to the Virtual aQuellé Midmar Mile event.

This follows what itself was a late-in-the-day announcement by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife that they were turning down the Event Management Plan for the 2021 aQuellé Midmar Mile despite many weeks of attempts to convince senior management that there was no danger of the event becoming a super-spreader of Covid-19.

Race Director Wayne Riddin said: “It was brought to our attention recently that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife were not allowing events to take place at their facilities, despite government regulations allowing events within restrictions. I personally requested an urgent meeting on several occasions but senior management were not able to make themselves available. All documentation was submitted to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, with written permissions in place from the necessary authorities. We have been locked in negotiations until yesterday (Tuesday, 2 March) to save the 2021 event.”

Riddin continued: “We are devastated that we were unable to convince Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife of not only our intent, but also our capability to run Midmar Mile safely during the pandemic. There is no doubt that the event was going to look very different this year as we made huge alterations to accommodate restrictions in place. The protocols prepared and documented would have been of the highest standard and, as is always the case at Midmar Mile, swimmers’ safety comes first.

“To have to inform our sponsors, participants and service providers of news of this nature at this late stage is unacceptable and I offer my heartfelt apologies to everyone who had put their confidence in us to stage a world-class event despite the challenges involved.”

The Race Committee has received permission from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to host the elite men and women’s races on Sunday, 7 March and the 8 Mile and 16 Mile Charity Swim events scheduled for Thursday, 11 and Friday, 12 March at Midmar Dam.

“We have just under 160 swimmers signed up to swim their 8 or 16 Mile events either at Midmar Dam or via the virtual platform,” explained Riddin. “These swimmers have already raised over R500k towards 6 major charities, one of which is Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. This figure is set to rise significantly as more funds roll in.”

Riddin has organised the world’s largest open water swimming event for 30 years and stated that “experience in this regard does not appear to have been taken into consideration. The past 12 months has had event organisers on their toes and ready to adapt. The Capital K open water swim was successfully run in Nov 2020 at Midmar Dam as a test run for processes intended for Midmar Mile and we hosted further open water swims at Cradle Moon in Muldersdrift on 29 November and 21 February. Public reports of these events sadly failed to make an impression on the senior management.”

The Race Committee is committed to making the best of a bad situation and to lessen the disappointment faced by around 4000 participants who were heading to Midmar Dam over the next two weekends.

Riddin explained: “We had fortunately introduced the Virtual aQuellé  Midmar Mile for 2021 to accommodate the many overseas swimmers who would have been unable to visit us at Midmar this year so it is this platform that will now host all race entrants who would like that option. Our immediate concern is obviously for those who are unable to change their arrangements and may still arrive at Midmar Dam this weekend (6 and 7 March) to swim. We will at least monitor the Midmar Mile course over the weekend for those who may now swim their virtual mile instead.”

The Race Committee can confirm that all paid entries into the 2021 aQuellé Midmar Mile will be transferred to the virtual platform at no charge. Details will be publicised as soon as finalised in the next few days.

All virtual entries will count for the 2021 aQuellé  Midmar Mile and will receive their medal in the post along with their racing swimcap, their printable certificate and an official race result. Entrants who had ordered Glodina towels and t-shirts will be contacted and delivery will be arranged. Midmar Mile will also set up an online shop for all 2021 merchandise.