Safety at Unicon competitions (Closed for comments)
Comments about this discussion:
I've had a number of experiences where I didn't feel safety was the first priority at Unicon and heard about more. As much as participants participate at their own risk, they still expect that the utmost is done for the events to be safe. I don't feel that's the case at this time.
A few examples:
– At Unicon in New Zealand the downhill gliding course was moved to one that was much steeper than anticipated and had insufficient space to slow down at the bottom.
– At Unicon in Denmark the slowest riders started first for the 10K meaning the fastest riders needed to take over everyone on narrow paths
– At Unicon in Spain there wasn't medical staff ready at the competitions the first couple of days (until some participants fixed it)
– At Unicon in Spain the hockey tournament took place on a concrete surface rather than a soft gym floor (and we didn't need safety equipment the way we would have had for outdoor events like 10K)
– At Unicon in Korea the course for muni was reversed at the last minute meaning the uphill and downhill sections were changed
– At Unicon in Korea the Korean team trained downhill muni on the narrow footpath leading up to the top of the downhill gliding hill
As a participant it's hard for me to know what kind of thinking (if any) went into the safety of the events I'm in and how that's being assessed. As participants we have to trust that the organizers choose a route that has the right mix of challenge and safety and often they're at odds with each other. A safer route is less challenging and a more challenging route poses extra risks for riders who're not good enough for it. Looking through the rules only rule 12C.2 about safety for trials deals with these challenges by stating explicitly that riders can be denied attempts at certain lines if it's judged to be far beyond their abilities.
What I propose is that IUF should pick someone to validate the safety of the events and that participants are free to contact that person with concerns. Right now it's assumed event directors will also validate that enough is done for the safety of events, something that presents a clear conflict of interest and compromises the general safety of events.
Whoever is "safety validator" should also be tasked with collecting best practices so that the next event will be able to build on what's learned in the prior event and should have the power to shut down events at any time if the execution of the events do not match the plans for the events (for instance if there isn't enough volunteers for a race so riders get lost or won't be found if they fall).
It's important that the safety validator consider all the factors that contribute hazards as well as the riders of the event. It's not enough that a course is safe, it should also be safe for 12-year olds racing each other in 40C heat with 90% humidity if that's what the weather is like.
I know there's always a risk to any activity and I don't think this will magically make it completely riskless to participate, however I don't want to be put in a situation (again) where I need to second guess the decisions that were made by the hosts and consider if I believe all reasonable care was taken that the event is safe. I think there has been a number of cases where safety has not had first priority and I hope I won't have to second guess safety decisions at unicon in 2020.