City of Montreal announces new organizers for Montreal marathon

A file photo shows the starting line of the Montreal marathon in 2014. The next edition of the marathon will be organized by GPCQM. Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Staff/Global News

The City of Montreal announced Monday it was awarding the organization of the next edition of the Montreal Marathon to the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec et Montréal (GPCQM).

The city says it made its decision following a call for proposals among Quebec non-profit sporting organizations.

In a written statement, the city said that following the 2019 marathon, it was important to make sure organizers had the ability to “set up a management system for medical interventions to ensure the safety of participants.”

In 2019, Patrick Neely, 24, died after collapsing near the finish line of a half-marathon race that was part of the International Oasis Rock ‘N’ Roll Montreal Marathon.

A Quebec coroner who looked into his death raised several issues with communication and organization at the event.

The report, released in June 2020, noted that there was a serious lack of volunteers along the route, that it took nearly 10 minutes for paramedics to arrive after police called and that Neely was taken to the nearest hospital as opposed to one equipped to deal with cardiac arrest patients.

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Race director, Dominic Piché, resigned a few days after the marathon, saying his decision reflected his desire to be accountable.

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Hadrien Parizeau, associate adviser for youth, sports and recreation on the executive committee of the City of Montreal, said he’s confident in the ability of the GPCQM to pull off a successful event.

“The organization has 10 years of experience in hosting the Grand Prix Cyclistes de Québec et Montréal, an event of international stature,” he said of the annual cycling races held in Quebec’s two biggest cities.

“For the Montreal Marathon, GPCQM Events will be able to ensure the safety of the thousands of people who will run on routes that have been planned with the assistance of the city.”

Sebastien Arsenault, CEO of the Montreal Marathon and chairman of the board for the Grand Prix Cyclistes, said he and his team are up for the task.

“We have a three-year plan, I don’t think we have to put all the firecrackers and everything for year one. We’ll focus on the most important things,” he said.

“We need to have a course that is stimulating, challenging, beautiful, but in the meantime, security-wise, we need to make sure that we are on top of everything.”

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Arsenault said his team has a lot of experience, not only in organizing the Grand Prix riding events but with the marathon itself.

“We’re going to put the emphasis on security and that said, for me, I think we do have a strong team with the Dr. François de Champlain, a guy like Eddy Afram and Mario Blain who is organizing the marathon since the mid-80’s,” he said.

“These three guys are like the pyramid of the security for the next marathon.”

Shortly after Piché resigned in 2019, Eddy Afram, medical co-ordinator for the race from 2012 to 2018, was approached by then-organizer Ironman to take on the role again, while Mario Blain was named director of event operations. The 2020 edition of the marathon, however, was cancelled due to COVID-19.

And now, with Arsenault at the helm, the marathon has come full circle.

Arsenault’s father, Serge, founded the Montreal marathon in 1979 before passing the baton to his brother Bernard in the early 1990s.  Competitor Group, an American company based in San Diego, eventually took over in 2012.

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Arsenault said he remembers helping his father that first year.

“Me and my sister Arianne, we were folding flyers and helping with paper stuff,” he said, adding his involvement continued when his uncle took over.

“It’s never been too far from the family.”

Arsenault said he’s thankful for the opportunity and eager to get started.

“It’s quite an honour to be frank with you,” he said. “We look forward to start working and like we say, tomorrow starts today.”

In an interview with Global News, Parizeau, reiterated why he felt GPCPM was the right choice.

“The group of the Arsenault family was giving us all the information of where they were going to put the ambulance … they found a solution for every single thing in the coroner’s report,” he said.

The next edition of the Montreal marathon is scheduled for Sept, 2021. The city will contribute $460,000 to the event, mostly in goods and services.

Should the pandemic lead to a cancellation of the race, Parizeau said runners will be reimbursed.

— With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez, and the Canadian Press

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Montreal marathoner pays tribute to Terry Fox

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