Feb 2020: This toolkit is your passport to sport

Good news in 2021? Surely not? Of course there would not be any good news without a few setbacks along the road as well.

Hot on the heels of the recent easing of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and the relaxing of alcohol restrictions, a slew of sports bodies have indicated that South African sportsmen, sportswomen, administrators and service providers are also able to cautiously begin some celebrations as events are reintroduced.

However, the news that the national athletics, canoeing, cycling and triathlon federations have all confirmed the restart of events, albeit with mostly very strict pre-conditions, has been tempered by the cancellation for 2021 of two of South Africa’s most prestigious events: The Two Oceans and Comrades Marathon.

The simple reality is that Covid-19 is still a feature of our lives and runners, paddlers, cyclists and triathletes ARE going to have to get used to smaller races (expect entry limits to be strictly enforced) and will have to put up with more admin at events. The new norm will be temperatures taken and Covid-compliance forms to be filled in – but then, do you want to be at an event that is not taking the precautions seriously?

The somewhat ironic downside of all this extra admin at race registration is the counter-productive queues that could form, and queues are not something anybody needs at the moment.

The solution is either more admin staff at registration and / or a system that allows almost everything to be done by athletes before standing in a queue. FinishTime, in conjunction with Australian partners RaceTec, has developed ‘RaceTec Toolkit’ as a paperless registration and timekeeping app for smartphones and other mobile devices.

Designed to work in conjunction with the FinishTime Passport app, the system allows entrants to answer all their Covid-19 questions and update their details on the morning of an event, before getting to the registration queue. The answers are incorporated into a QR code which is scanned in seconds at registration and the information is then stored on the race database.

The safety questionnaires integrate seamlessly with RaceTec Toolkit, an affordable timing system which has been developed for smaller, regional and club events (up to 250 athletes) that want to save costs and handle the timing themselves.

This powerful system allows event organisers to run an efficient registration (late entries and pre-entries), handle timekeeping, generate results and do other event admin, all from smartphones. The timekeeping options include (but are not limited to) team events, time trial-type staggered and open start times, batch starts, lap events and mass starts, while all results are generated in real time and are available on the FinishTime results website within seconds of any athlete crossing the line.

The system can be integrated into other FinishTime options such are generating certificates, social media posts, e-mails and SMS notifications.

What events are now allowed?

At the time of writing Athletics South Africa has announced that “All athletics activities (have) reopened,” but added that the return “… will obviously be held under the strict ASA protocols and as per the national regulations which dictate the adherence to the protocols of the health authorities.”

The re-opening has come too late for Two Oceans and Comrades who have formally cancelled their events for 2021.

Cycling South Africa has said that “Sanctioned events can continue but remain restricted in terms of the number of participants permitted, and are subject to strict guidelines …”.

That means the national road championships on March 18-21 are expected to take place in Swellendam while the downhill nationals have been rescheduled to March 27-28 and moved to Jonkershoek in the Western Cape.

Canoeing events “are back on … as per the official calendar”, including the MyLife Dusi which has already been rescheduled to March 18-20.

Swimming South Africa did not respond to queries, but the Midmar Mile 2021 has moved to two weekends (March 6-7 and March 13-14) and the organisers seem to be opting for a very flexible approach while a rolling start will encourage social distancing before and after the eight events.

Triathletes are also returning to action with organisers hosting races throughout the country  “under very strict Covid protocols”.

For more see the official statements from Athletics South Africa, Cycling South Africa, Comrades and the Two Oceans.

For obvious reasons, the FinishTime sporting calendars below come with a warning to check with the event organisers to ensure events have not been postponed.