Tokyo Marathon

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Tokyo Marathon limited to elite runners due to coronavirus

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Marathon organizers drastically reduced the number of participants for this year’s race on Monday out of fear of the spread of the virus coming from China.

The general public is being barred from the race on March 1. It will now be limited to a few hundred elite participants, organizers said in a brief statement.

“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,” organizers said.

The Tokyo Marathon is the city’s annual race and not to be confused with the Olympic marathon that will take place during the 2020 Tokyo Games. Those races are to be held in the northern city of Sapporo.

The marathon is the latest large sports event to be impacted by the virus. Almost all sports events in China over the next few months have been called off, including next month’s world indoor track and field championships and a Formula One race in April.

The cancellations in China have a domino effect on Olympic qualifying, both in China and elsewhere, and muddle the picture for thousands of hopeful Olympians, families, and their travel plans.

The Tokyo Marathon was expected to attract about 38,000 participants. Only one death in Japan has been attributed to the virus. The latest death toll in mainland China is 1,770.

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics and the International Olympic Committee have said repeatedly they will not cancel or postpone the Games and are following the advice of the World Health Organization.

“Certainly the advice we’re receiving externally from the WHO is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the Games or moving the Games,” John Coates, the head of an IOC inspection team, said Friday in Tokyo.

The Olympics open on July 24 with about 11,000 athletes participating. About 7.8 million tickets are available for Olympic events, which draw hundreds of thousands of tourists. There are another 2.3 million tickets for the Paralympics.

Much of the focus in now on China. It will further intensify with the next Olympics — the 2022 Winter Games — taking place in Beijing.

The spreading virus has already forced organizers to cancel World Cup ski races this month in Yanquig, China, which were also to serve as test events. Also called off was a biathlon test event in Zhangjiakou.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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