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29 September 2020, 10am

Damage to economy from race cancellations calculated to reach equivalent of 6.7 billion USD

Japan takes stock of Marathon losses

by Brett Larner

A study released on 27 September by Katsuhiro Miyamoto, professor emeritus of theoretical economics at Kansai University, estimated that the cancellation or postponement of 460 marathons and road races in Japan from the fall of 2020 through the spring of 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis would result in an estimated economic loss of 710 billion yen (USD 6.74 billion, EUR 5.75 billion).

For races with more than 2000 participants, apart from direct losses such as entry fees and accommodation costs, the study’s calculation included linked losses such as reduced purchases of supplies and materials, and secondary losses such as reduced spending by vendors due to decreased income. After performing the calculation for a number of representative races, numbers for other races were estimated based on their field sizes.

The loss due to the cancellation of November’s Osaka Marathon was estimated at 18 billion yen (171m USD, 145m EUR). Its 2019 race attracted 33,000 participants from across the country, making it the second-largest in Japan. The Kobe Marathon, likewise cancelled, is expected to face losses of 7 billion yen (66.5m USD, 56m EUR). Whether the 2021 Tokyo Marathon goes ahead as scheduled in March is yet to be decided, but with 38,000 entrants in 2020 its losses should it be cancelled are expected to total 29 billion yen (275m USD, 235m EUR).

Since the beginning of the 2000s the number of mass participation marathons across Japan has increased dramatically. The races help promote the region in which they are held and boost tourism and related consumption. Many attract foreign runners to make the trip to run in Japan. Professor Emeritus Miyamoto noted, “As an economic loss, the cancellation and postponement of marathons represents a negative stimulus to regional economic revitalisation.”

According to R-bies Inc., the Tokyo-based operator of an online race entry site, of the races in its system scheduled after the end of September, more than 130 have already cancelled. Doshisha University professor Hiroaki Ninomiya, a specialist in sports economics, commented, “Even if races are able to go ahead there is a risk of major deficits. Moving forward, rather than just going ahead with an event no matter what, it will be essential to develop income streams other than entry fees to make races profitable.”

The study estimates only losses for the upcoming year and does not include losses for the hundreds of races cancelled between February and September this year.


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