Tokyo Marathon takes place on empty streets amid coronavirus fears

Tokyo Marathon takes place on empty streets amid coronavirus fears
Birhanu Legese ran through the winning ribbon, held by volunteers wearing face masks. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times, Tokyo: The Tokyo Marathon took place against the backdrop of empty streets and with just a few hundred runners due to coronavirus outbreak.

Organizers had reduced the entries to just elite runners and wheelchair athletes. That’s how many thousands of athletes couldn’t able to attend the event.

The numbers of volunteers were also reduced and spectators were advised to “avoid gathering along the course” and were instead encouraged to “support through TV and radio,” which makes the streets almost empty.

Authorities even gave staff and competitors of Tokyo Marathon surgical masks and hand sanitizer.

Ethiopian Birhanu Legese won the men’s race for the second year in a row in two hours four minutes and 15 seconds, while Israel’s Lonah Korlima Chemtai Salpeter won the women’s race in a course record time of 2:17.45.

Tokyo is due to host the Olympics from July 24 to August 9, which is now at stake amid coronavirus fears.

Fans and spectators are not feeling good in the situation.

A 68-year-old shoemaker Hiroshi Enomoto, who watched the race in the downtown area of Asakusa, told Reuters “If the Olympics look like this, it’s going to be a sad sight. There are maybe 20% of the number of people who came to see the race last year. Normally, it’s so packed you can barely breathe.”

More than 200 people have been infected by coronavirus so far in Japan, while at least 621 people who were onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship which was held in quarantine off the port of Yokohama, tested positive.

What’s the fate of the Tokyo Olympics?

A senior official for the Olympics said on Friday that Tokyo has no Plan B for this year’s Summer Olympics despite alarm over the spread of the coronavirus in Japan and elsewhere with under five months before the event.

The deputy director-general of the Tokyo 2020 Preparation Bureau, Katsura Enyo said there will not be one bit of change in holding the Games as planned.

Japan has been fearing the Games might be called off, postponed or moved to a different location due to the virus. The country is preparing for the event for years and invested some $12 billion dollars.

The virus originated from China but is moving fast around the world. Japan is one of the worst affected countries with more than 700 cases and five deaths.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president and former fencing champion Thomas Bach bolstered Tokyo’s stance on Thursday saying the IOC was fully committed to holding the event on time.