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Coronavirus latest: Tokyo marathon cancels mass race, Hong Kong racing goes ahead, and more

Participants start the Tokyo Marathon 2007 on February 18, 2007 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

This year’s Tokyo marathon is being confined to 200 elite runners due to the coronavirus outbreak, wiping out the mass participation element that would have involved 38,000 amateur runners.

The March 1 event will feature 176 elite runners and 30 elite wheelchair athletes. All registered amateur runners will be allowed to enter next year, but will have to pay again and will not get a refund for this year’s race.

Kyodo News reported that the organisers mulled several options, including a smaller field of general entry runners, before deciding on the total restriction.

“It was a very difficult decision, but it was all we could do,” race director Tadaaki Hayano said.

Hong Kong racing goes ahead behind closed doors

Horse racing at Hong Kong ‘s Sha Tin racecourse is going ahead without punters in attendance, with only a few hundred horse owners and guests present, all wearing masks.

Racing is continuing to allow betting to continue remotely. Agence France-Presse reported that Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said turnover for a meeting on Sunday was HK$1.18bn ($150m), down about HK$400m from last year.

Around 650,000 Hong Kongers – about 10 per cent of the city’s population – have HKJC betting accounts.

“It is extremely important to continue,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said. “If you take this (racing) away you take the city’s favourite pastime away. The social impact of racing in Hong Kong – there’s nowhere in the world that’s similar.”

Referring to the revenue hit, he said: “This is what we expected. Some people are wondering can we stomach a 25 percent decrease in turnover. It’s absolutely no problem…

“Maybe our bottom line (for the season) drops a billion dollars. That’s for us, nothing.

“It is important that here we contain the risk by having only 300 people here, but we are still able to offer entertainment for 600,000 to 700,000 people: they buy their form book they study the day before, they’re glued to the TV.”

China out of Asian Wrestling Championships

The Chinese team will not participate in this year’s Asian Wrestling Championships in New Delhi, despite the Wrestling Federation of India earlier this month assuring it would.

The team was not granted visas to enter the country. India’s sports minister Kiren Rijiju explained: “As part of the Olympic Charter, we cannot deny visas to anyone for a competition.

“But there are separate provisions for health or technical issues.”

The WFI said several participating nations had expressed concern about China’s involvement.

The event starts today and runs until Sunday.

Beijing 2022 support

The International Olympic Committee expressed support for China’s efforts to contain the virus during a video conference with organisers of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics organising committee.

IOC vice president and chair of the Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022, Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, said: “[We not only want to] tell you how close we are to you in the difficult and complicated health situation in your country, but also that we are very, very impressed by how China has been dealing with the situation, how the authority’s energy of your country has been dealing with the difficult moment. We are very, very proud of proficiency and dedication. Don’t hesitate to let us know in any point of time, if we can give any help any assistance helping you go with the crisis.”

Preparations for the Games were also discussed, including ticket sales, hospitality programmes and sustainable and legacy projects.

Other coronavirus news
  • The Asian Weightlifting Championships has been moved from Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to allow Chinese athletes to compete. The event will take place as scheduled on April 16 to 25, with the AWF Congree taking place on April 17. Kazakhstan is currently denying entry to visitors from China.
  • Italy’s Imola motor racing circuit has applied to replace the postponed Chinese Formula One grand prix in April.
  • The Federation Internationale de Volleyball beach volleyball tournament scheduled for April 22 to 26 in Yangzhou, China has been postponed until after the Olympics.
  • Brunei-based football club Brunei DPMM will not play in the Singapore Premier League season-opening Community Shield match. Brunei DPMM, which plays in the Singaporean league, was due to play Tampines Rovers this Saturday.
  • The annual Hong Kong Sports Stars Awards, due to take place on March 24, is being postponed until May at the earliest, and may be pushed back until after the Olympics. Public voting for the awards, which accounts for 20 per cent of total votes, closed at the weekend.
  • The Chinese women’s national football team will play the home leg of their Olympic playoff match against South Korea, scheduled for March 11, abroad.