Organisers of the Tokyo Marathon on Monday announced that the race scheduled to be held on March 1 will be open only to elite athletes following the confirmation of cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Japan last week.
An elderly woman in Kanagawa is the only person to have been killed by the virus in Japan so far.
“We have been preparing for the Tokyo Marathon 2020 (Sunday, March 1) while implementing preventive safety measures, however, now that case of COVID-19 has been confirmed within Tokyo, we cannot continue to launch the event within the scale we originally anticipated and we regret to inform you the following: The Tokyo Marathon 2020 will be held only for the marathon elites and the wheelchair elites,” the statement read in part.
More than 38,000 people, mostly non-professional athletes, were expected to take part in the race but now it is estimated that just over 200 elite athletes and wheelchair athletes will be able to compete in the event.
Organisers said that people who had registered to run would be allowed to defer their entry until 2021. However, it added that the runners will have to pay again and will not get their money back from this year’s race.
Runners from China, who had registered to race, were informed that they could defer their entry until 2021 without any penalty.
The news raises fresh doubts over the Olympic Games, set for July 24, going ahead in Japan. Last week, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspection team John Coates said that there was no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the Games or moving the Games.
The Tokyo Marathon, one of the biggest races in the world, is the latest sporting event to be affected by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, the World Indoor Championships in Nanjing and the Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens have all been postponed.