Coronavirus: What Does the Tokyo Marathon’s Cancellation Mean For the Olympics?

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  • On Monday night, it was announced that the Tokyo Marathon would be cancelled for General participants. Therefore, only about 200 elite runners would be allowed to participate in one of the world’s most important marathons.

    As for the 39,000 people who were set to run, they’ll be allowed to do so in 2021 as long as they pay the required fees for the 2021 event.

    by Martin Danker

    The restrictions have caused mixed feelings among general runners, who won’t receive any refunds due to the cancellation. Some runners were coming from overseas as well, and won’t receive compensation if they decide to cancel their flights. The situation has left them in limbo, not really being angry at the inevitable events but feeling the pain of the monetary loss.

    Considering just how important the Tokyo Marathon is (it’s one of the six World Marathon Majors), the news has also raised concerns about the future of the Olympics.

    While it’s too early to reach assumptions, some are considering whether the Olympics should be pushed to 2021. This comes in light of the Japanese government declaring that Japan has entered a new stage when it comes to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

    The cases in Japan have been on the rise, and in some cases health officials have not been able to find the route of infection. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has also stated that the virus may be spreading in the capital.

    As of now, most of the over 600 cases in Japan are inside the Diamond Princess cruise docked in Yokohama, but there has been a spike in confirmed cases within the county. As such, there are concerns that Tokyo has entered the early stages of what would become a pandemic in the world’s largest metropolitan area.

    To make things worse, Japan has an aging population, and older people are the ones at higher risk of dying because of the virus. Because of this, protecting the elderly has become the government’s number one priority.

    However, if the coronavirus pandemic does not ease by the time of the Olympics (and experts say it won’t), then Tokyo and Japan could be in a very vulnerable position during the events.

    The major issue is that Tokyo is expecting an influx of tourists never seen before. There are not enough hotel rooms to accommodate all tourists, and statistics show that tourists could overwhelm the city’s already crowded public transportation system; which is why some companies are coming up with measures like teleworking during the Olympics (surprisingly, one in third of companies are open to this measure, though. However, Tokyo’s toxic work culture is a topic for another day).

    If Tokyo is expecting to receive a massive amount of visitors, it also means that many of them could be carrying the new coronavirus and end up spreading it across the city. The Olympics could be the ultimate thing that ruins Japan’s already failing efforts to contain the virus.

    Because of this, cancelling the Olympics, or rather pushing them for the upcoming year, could be the best decision if Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) wanted to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

    However, there are still months before the Olympics are set to take place, making it too early for officials to know exactly what to do. What’s more, the IOC has proven to act slowly. Despite the many signs that Tokyo’s summers had become unbearably hot for many events, it wasn’t until the IOC saw the terrible events at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha that they decided to move the marathon and racewalking events from Tokyo to Sapporo, infuriating a blindsided Tokyo that had already spent a considerable amount of money to host the events during the summer months that the IOC so much desires.

    COVID-19 is continuing to spread, and the technical cancellation of the Tokyo Marathon has put the future of the Tokyo Olympics and their success in jeopardy.