Catcalls over chaos at Hello Kitty run

Catcalls over chaos at Hello Kitty run

Hello Kitty's 40th birthday celebrations kicked off with a rousing start early yesterday morning in Sentosa - with a 33-inch cupcake and the singing of Happy Birthday by 17,000 participants there for the run hosted by the feline.

Then the problems started.

First came the rain, which forced organisers to put the inaugural Hello Kitty run on hold, leaving two remaining waves of runners, some with children, to seek limited shelter at the Sentosa Boardwalk.

But what really upset some participants, who paid $65 to $75 to take part, was the chaos they met when trying to collect a coveted Hello Kitty medal after completing the 5km run.

As runners sought shelter from the rain in a pavilion where the medals were being given out, it became very crowded. When some crew members started giving out the medals at a more spacious area in Siloso beach, participants got confused.

Executive Grace Lin, 24, said: "People were asking one another where to get the medals."

According to a host of complaints on the event's Facebook page, an announcement saying there may not be enough medals for everyone caused the rush to become worse.

Arguments ensued, voices were raised, with some calling race staff rude.

Others were doubly frustrated at seeing "greedy" people get several medals from the collection point while they went home without one.

Pictures posted on Facebook showed that some were already cashing in by selling their Hello Kitty medals for $35. Others offered limited Hello Kitty Run plush toys, included in the race pack, for as high as $100 on Carousell.

Race organiser Pink Apple apologised for the delays caused by the weather, and told those who were unable to collect their medals that they can do so on another day, which is yet to be announced.

"Due to the unpredictable weather... participants who have collected their medals were unwilling to step out (of the pavilion)," a spokesman for Pink Apple told The Sunday Times.

She added that there were 50 crew and 18 security staff to direct the crowd to the collection point.

Some participants urged others to be more understanding, saying the organisers could do nothing about the rain. Others said they enjoyed the chance to brave the elements, with one Hello Kitty fan from Australia posting: "It was awesome."

Still, of the more than 200 comments on the event's Facebook page, most were critical.

They complained of a lack of wet weather plans, noting that young children were left soaked while organisers had ponchos.

Some asked why one was not included in the race pack.

Others observed quite a few people falling while some wondered why those wanting to run were grouped with casual walkers.

The popularity of Hello Kitty, which started in 1974 in Japan before becoming a global marketing hit, has caused mayhem before.

Last year, when McDonald's offered Hello Kitty dolls in a skeleton outfit, there were long queues outside its outlets, with police called to at least one branch. Earlier this year, when McDonald's moved its promotion online to prevent queue jumping, its servers crashed.

This article was first published on Nov 2, 2014.
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