Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The Tokyo Marathon, one of the premier long-distance races in the world, will be limited to only elite athletes because of the coronavirus, organizers said Monday.
The March 1 race was expected to attract 37,000 runners worldwide, but after numerous reports of the virus affecting people in Tokyo, organizers said, they cannot "launch the event within the scale we originally anticipated."
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said ending the general public participation into the marathon was simply based on public safety but it was still a difficult decision.
"To all the general entry runners who felt joy at being selected, we apologize, but these restrictions are unavoidable," Koike said.
The decision to limit the marathon participants comes on the heels of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee saying last week at the Summer Games is still on for the July 24 opening ceremonies despite the virus.
"I would like to make it clear yet again that we are not considering cancellation or postponement of the games," Yoshiro Mori said last week. "Permit me to make that crystal clear. We have unexpected issues to deal with, such as the coronavirus."
The Tokyo Marathon acts as one of the major qualifiers for the Olympic Games marathon. Currently, a field of 176 top runners and 30 premier wheelchair athletes will take part in the marathon.