(ATR) Organizers of the marathon test event for the Tokyo Olympics receive praise from the World Athletics president.
Sebastian Coe was in Sapporo on Wednesday to witness the half marathon race first hand.
"The organising committee here not only demonstrated the ability to stage an event on the field of play, it also demonstrated the ability to deliver across other complexities including, of course, the COVID-19 protocols," Coe said at a news conference.
"COVID-19 has been the big challenge for all of us for the last year-and-a-half, and I'm delighted to recognize that the countermeasures that are needed in order to mitigate against risk were observable and were very, very clearly in place."
The shortened course was similar to the first half of the marathon route that will be used for the Games this summer. Six international athletes, having followed strict protocols, were part of an elite field that also included some of Japan’s leading marathon contenders.
A 10-kilometer race that was to be open to the public had been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers made it clear that spectators weren’t welcome but according to Reuters a handful of people did show up to watch the race.
Ichiyama Mao of Japan won the women’s race while Hillary Kipkoech of Kenya crossed the finish line first on the men’s side. Both ran personal bests.
The Olympic road races were originally moved to Sapporo from Tokyo to avoid the high temperatures that mark the Japanese capital’s summers.
"One of the reasons I wanted to be here [in Japan] is because it's important that Tokyo 2020, the Organising Committee, knows and feels reassured that World Athletics sits entirely behind and supportive of all the efforts that they are making to stage an Olympic Games under very, very difficult circumstances. We are all in this together," Coe said.
Coe will be in Tokyo for Sunday’s athletics test event at the new National Stadium. There will be no spectators there either, as Tokyo remains under a state of emergency until May 11 as part of Japan’s measures to blunt a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
The state of emergency, which authorities said was put in place to limit activities during the Golden Week holidays, could be extended. The holiday period ended on Wednesday.
Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said on Wednesday the government would make its decision on an extension by the end of the week, according to Kyodo News.
The current state of emergency, which began on April 25, covers Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto.
Written by Gerard Farek
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