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The Tokyo Marathon will be held for only marathon elites and wheelchair elites, greatly limiting the number of participants in one of the six major marathon road races due to concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, organizers announced Monday.

The annual race schedule for March 1 will now be limited to a couple hundred participants rather than the more than 38,000 people who qualified and were in some cases selected to run. Per Reuters, there are 245 elite runners and 30 elite wheelchair participants.

“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,” the organizers said in a statement.

Japan has had the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China with more than 400, per the New York Times. The first death from the virus in the country was last week.

The organizers have offered participants of the semi-elite, general, charity and 10km races the option of deferring entry to the 2021 race. Their entry fee for the 2020 race will not be refunded — though participants will receive the signature T-shirt if ordered, the organizers said.

Organizers had already asked participants from China, where the virus originated, to defer their entry.

The Tokyo Marathon is an annual race that is part of the six major marathons held throughout the year, with the others taking place in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. The New York City marathon was canceled in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy impacted millions in the boroughs, New Jersey and entire northeast.

Tokyo is the latest sporting event canceled, adjusted or moved due to COVID-19. Over the weekend, the Chinese gymnastics squad pulled out of the World Cup that was set for Feb. 20 in Melbourne, Australia. Australia has implemented travel bans for those coming from China, as have many other countries.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has continued to say they will not cancel or postpone the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo this summer. IOC inspection team head John Coates said Friday he is 100 percent confident the games will start as scheduled on July 24, per the Associated Press.

The number of new coronavirus cases in China dropped to a three-week low on Monday, according to the New York Times. The latest death toll in mainland China is approximately 1,770.

Source: Cassandra Negley

www.sports24ghana.com