COVID-19: Vodacom Durban July Will be “Broadcast-Only” Event

One of Africa’s richest horse races, the Vodacom Durban July, has had to adapt to the reality of a pandemic. COVID-19 has forced the race’s organizers to make it a broadcast-only event and it will be held behind closed doors this year.

A joint statement was made by organizers, Gold Circle and Vodacom, declaring their commitment to holding the race under strict protocols issued by the South African government.

“Gold Circle, together with the ongoing support of the company’s valued sponsor Vodacom, is fully committed to running the 2020 Vodacom Durban July,” said the chief executive officer of Gold Circle, Michel Nairac.

“Sadly, given the reality of the present circumstances, the race meeting will be staged behind closed doors and without spectators.”

Nairac said that the Vodacom Durban July has enjoyed an uninterrupted history since first being run in 1897. “Not even two world wars prevented the race from being run – and we are doing everything in our power to ensure that 2020 is not the exception,” he added.

For the moment, the race is scheduled to be held on July 25th – a change from the traditional first Saturday of the month. However, both Gold Circle and Vodacom admit that the date could change once more, depending on the state of the pandemic nearer to the time.

The executive head of sponsorship at Vodacom, Michelle van Eyden said that any decision made around the race this year would be made by the group “as a responsible company committed to the safety of all who are involved.”

Vodacom has committed to work together with all the relevant stakeholders and be guided by the horseracing fraternity and experts in the SA racing industry, together with the SA government. Van Eyden promised that all would work together to try and make this year’s race a reality.

The announcement about the Durban July came shortly after one made by the Comrades Marathon Association, announcing that this year’s marathon – the 95th in its history – would be cancelled.

“With the race’s rich history, its powerful nation-building attributes and contribution towards social cohesion, as well as its immense economic impact, it would have been premature to rush into an outright cancellation sooner,” read the statement. “However, we believe we have jointly arrived at the correct decision to protect the health and safety of all concerned as well as the lives of our fellow South Africans.”