07 July 2020, 2pm
The prevention of the spread of the coronavirus is the KGRR’s top priority. The race would be held on a 3.3 km loop course around the runway at the Defence Force Base in Tachikawa, Tokyo, its traditional starting point.
The Yosenkai Ekiden traditionally starts with a lap of the Tachikawa airfield before heading out into the city and finishing in Showa Kinen Park. It is now planned to be cut back to doing 3.3 km laps on the runway entirely within the base. Attendees will be limited to university personnel only.
Every year, countless people gather along the course and at the finish in Showa Kinen Park to watch the race. Tens of thousands wait post-race for the announcement of the qualifying teams – a tradition for Ekiden fans. If held as normal dense crowding is inevitable and would increase the risk of cluster infections. The support of fans and alumni is an invaluable source of energy for the athletes, but the potential cost is simply too high. Using a loop course on the runway would also reduce risks by cutting down on the number of operating staff and volunteers necessary.
506 athletes from 43 universities participated in the race last year. This year there are plans to cut numbers by making qualifying times tougher or by cutting the number of runners per team.
The KGRR’s guidelines specify that holding the Yosenkai is premised on the reality of “cancellation in the event of a government declaration of a state of emergency.”
Translated by Brett Larner