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A Race Director's Nightmare

A Race Director's Nightmare

From the New Zealand Herald, 11th August 2003

Doubt over events after cycle verdict

Sports bodies are considering stopping some events, after the landmark prosecution of Le Race director Astrid Andersen.

"It has made a lot of people really scared about what this could mean for the future," said former Christchurch City to Surf organiser Sarah Stewart.

After almost two days of deliberations, a Christchurch District Court jury decided on Saturday that Andersen, aged 43, was guilty of criminal nuisance as organiser of the March 2001 Le Race cycle race, in which Vanessa Caldwell died after a head-on collision with a car while overtaking on a blind corner.

There were gasps in the court as the verdict was read out, and tears from Mrs Caldwell's family.

Andersen, who has been remanded on bail for sentence on August 29, is a high-profile Christchurch events organiser.

After the verdict, she called a press conference, at which she said there were no winners from the trial, and the result had serious implications for the sporting and events industry.

Her lawyer, Frazer Barton, said it was too early to say whether there would be an appeal.

The case against Andersen centred on whether the information to cyclists taking part in Le Race was clear and unambiguous about whether the Banks Peninsula's Summit Rd was open to other traffic for the event.

The leisure manager for the Christchurch City Council, Alistair Graham, said the guilty verdict had huge consequences and some event organisers could withdraw from running national events. They would need legal advice.

"We need an interpretation on what road closure actually means," he said. "Even when a road is closed, you cannot guarantee that a motorist won't come out of a side road or a farm track."

Green MP and multi-sports veteran Mike Ward said that although it was important that all reasonable steps were taken to keep participants safe, many organisers were likely to pull the plug on their involvement in light of the Andersen verdict.

"As organiser of New Zealand's longest-running multi-sports event, the Nelson Iron People Race, I am unlikely to proceed with next year's event. I imagine others will feel the same, which is sad in view of the exceptional safety record for events where there is, in reality, considerable scope for things to go wrong.

But Cycling New Zealand president Wayne Hudson said: "It's really just bringing us into the 21st century. You would have to have had your head in the sand for the last two years to think we didn't have to do something."

Transit New Zealand and the Christchurch City Council have introduced plans for traffic management that must be submitted before a public road can be used for an event.

The planning costs, as well as stipulations for signage and staffing, have added thousands of dollars to the cost of running sporting events.

Click here - For additional news reports on this issue


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