Belgrade Marathon Runs Into Ownership Dispute

A tussle over who has the right to organise the 2013 Belgrade Marathon has led to speculation that the city might end up with two showpiece races.Belgrade Marathon Ltd., a company that has been organising endurances races for two decades, has stated that it will organise this year’s event, although the city’s authorities have already announced that they have decided to get the Athletics Federation of Belgrade to stage the 26th annual contest.

After its contract with Belgrade Marathon Ltd. expired in 2012, the Belgrade city assembly decided not to extend it, alleging that the company had run up significant debts.

“Last year only, Belgrade Marathon Ltd. created a $92,000 debt, which was then paid by the city of Belgrade. That is why we decided to entrust the organisation of this year’s race to the Athletics Federation of Belgrade,” Aca Kovacevic, the city’s secretary for youth and sport, said on February 12th.

But Dejan Nikolic, director of Belgrade Marathon Ltd., called a press conference on February 20th to state that his company will press ahead with this year’s event.

The company’s website insists that it will stage the race on April 21st.

Belgrade Marathon Ltd. claims that it, not the city of Belgrade, has the right to organise the race, and that any other organiser would be operating illegally.

The company says it is “the one and only owner of the project Belgrade Marathon” and it has registered the race with the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.

At the press conference, Nikolic refused to comment on the claims that his company has run up debts that needed to be repaid from the city’s budget.

With tens of thousands of participants, the Belgrade Marathon is Serbia’s biggest sporting event, attracting many international competitors.

It features on the list of races in which athletes can meet Olympic standards and qualify for the Games.

The first Belgrade marathon of the modern era was held on March 8, 1988, when a group of enthusiasts decided to revive a race that was last held in 1910, when the participants ran from Obrenovac to Belgrade.

Since then, the event hasn’t missed a year. Even during the NATO bombing in 1999, 15,000 Belgraders turned out for a fun run.

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