Safety Concerns Outweighed Record – Organisers

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The safety of Namibians who attended the World’s Biggest Braai record attempt at the Sam Nujoma Stadium far outweighed breaking the record currently held by Australia since 1993. The braai was meant to feed the greatest number of people in one single event. Organisers say the shortcomings in achieving the record of feeding 45 000 Namibians arose out of ensuring the safety of the thousands of Namibians who jam-packed the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Katutura on Saturday. Namibia fell short by just 152 people in taking the word record title. Audit company PricewaterhouseCoopers officially verified a count of 38 228 attendees, while the unverified number stands at 44 007. In the latest press statement Alan Brough, on behalf of the World’s Biggest Braai Attempt organisers, said that at the mass event the safety of Namibians had to be and always will be a top priority. “Concern for public safety has always been of paramount importance to the organisers, who in the end made the decision to sacrifice the world record in the interests of public safety in the afternoon on Saturday,” said Brough. The braai has been described a success. It managed to bring in huge numbers of people to the stadium to have a boerewors roll and soft drink. According to the verified figures as confirmed by the auditing company, over 12 percent of the entire population of Windhoek (2 percent of the whole population) participated in the event. “This signifies an “incredible reflection of mobilisation,” says Brough. Yet the concern for human safety came at around 17:30 when the count had just reached 38 000 people who had passed through the gates. Due to the mounting numbers of people who were rushing out of the stadium for the musical entertainment outside there was “a growing crush” of people at the gates. This ultimately led to the fear that people could be hurt due to the congestion and rush to the exit points. Therefore, for the safety of everyone, especially children who were in the crowd, the police and organisers decided not to mark the people and allowed them in unmarked to quicken the pace and alleviate the crowd pressure. Fortunately, no casualties were reported as a result of the rushing out. Unfortunately for Namibia though, this meant that the audit firm could not verify double entries and could only officially verify the 38 000 people that were marked earlier. Therefore, the likelihood was there that those who were not marked might have come into the stadium more than once, thus affecting the counting process for the world record. “PWC continued to count the number of attendees and at the end of the day provided an unverified figure of 44 007 attendees – just 152 short of the world record,” reads the statement. This also led to the early closure of the event at around 20:00 in the evening and not at 22:00 as has been planned. The organisers are however happy with the achievement made in terms of the high turnout of people. At one stage “more than one person per second was passing through the gates and feeding station” says Brough. While the target attendance figure was 44 158, currently held by Australia, by half past two in the afternoon over 21 000 people had passed through the gates. “Over seven hours had passed and they were just halfway, so the pace had to be increased again,” added Brough. By 11:00 it was estimated that there were as many as 20 000 people waiting in the entrance queue, which filled almost the entire public parking area of the stadium. In preparation for the event Meatco Namibia produced 8.5 kilometers of boerewors, which was carefully measured in 17-centimetre strips. Namibia Beverages provided over 13 000 litres of Coca-Cola. Most of the hundreds of volunteers had to be on their feet for up to 17 hours under tough conditions of assisting the people who came into the stadium. Although Namibia has failed in breaking the world record in hosting the biggest braai ever, organisers are optimistic to attempt a similar event next year.