While the affect the novel coronavirus outbreak would have on the future of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has been mere speculation until this point, one iconic Tokyo sporting event has taken a harsh blow. Organizers for the Tokyo Marathon announced on Monday that the race will be open to elite athletes only, with regular participants being sidelined for the race scheduled for March 1.

In a statement released on February 17, Tokyo Marathon 2020 organizers said registered runners that fall into the semi-elite, general, charity and 10km categories will be allowed to defer their entry to the Tokyo Marathon 2021, but their entry fees for this year’s race will not be refunded.

The Tokyo Marathon 2020 will be held only for the marathon elites and wheelchair elites.


“We have been preparing for the Tokyo Marathon 2020 (Sunday, March 1) while implementing preventive safety measures,” the statement says. “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.”

More than 38,000 runners were expected to compete in the race. The marathon will be limited to approximately 200 elite runners, including 30 wheelchair athletes.

With 70,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in China alone and approximately 1,770 deaths, the WHO (World Health Organization) has officially declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

Tokyo Marathon 2020 organizers said the reason for limiting the race to elite runners only was because coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Japan. Other sporting events such as the Indoor World Athletics Championships in Nanjing and the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai have been postponed.

With five months to go before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, questions have risen whether the Games will be held. Last week Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic president Yoshiro Mori said, “We are not considering cancellation or postponement of the Games.”

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