Spectators banned from attending Olympic marathon and race walk events

·2-min read
Photo credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI - Getty Images
Photo credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI - Getty Images

Olympic organisers have asked spectators to avoid lining the route of the marathon and race walk events, to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

According to France24, organisers said in a statement that it was necessary to ‘reduce the risk of infection by restricting the movement of members of the public.’

‘It has therefore been decided to ask the public to refrain from spectating along the course,’ the statement said.

The race walk and marathon events are due to take place in Sapporo, which is still under quasi-state of emergency restrictions, over August 6-8. The decision to ask spectators to avoid the route was made after a meeting of Hokkaido prefecture and Sapporo city authorities with local police, Reuters reported.

According to the news agency, World Athletics said in a statement on Tuesday that it was surprised by the ‘seemingly inconsistent’ decision: ‘World Athletics is surprised by this new decision about our events in Sapporo, which is seemingly inconsistent with the decision to allow up to 10,000 spectators in venues in Tokyo, many of which are indoor venues,’ the body said.

It added: ‘We'll discuss this decision as soon as possible as it would be a great shame not to have spectators for the race walk and marathon in Sapporo given the popularity of both disciplines in Japan and the fact they are being held outdoors.’

The Games are due to kick off on Friday, July 23, just over two weeks away, but Japanese authorities are increasingly concerned about the potential impact of foreign visitors on Covid-19 infection rates as cases continue to rise.

According to official data, there were 920 new cases of Covid-19 in Tokyo on Wednesday, compared to 342 and 593 on Monday and Tuesday respectively. A number of areas, including the capital Tokyo, are still under quasi-state of emergency restrictions. These restrictions were due to end on July 11 but may be extended further, according to reports in local media.

There are also reports that initial plans to include 10,000 domestic spectators – with overseas spectators banned altogether – could be changed to see the amount of spectators halved or slashed even further.

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