Berlin run latest to feel curb pain

Marathon organisers grapple with impact of ban which may also affect other sports events

Some of the over 47,000 participants running in last year's Berlin Marathon. This year's race on Sept 27 is in jeopardy after the German government's latest measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Some of the over 47,000 participants running in last year's Berlin Marathon. This year's race on Sept 27 is in jeopardy after the German government's latest measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN • The Berlin Marathon scheduled for Sept 27 will not go ahead after the German government said it was banning all events of more than 5,000 people through Oct 24.

In a post on Instagram, race officials said they were forced to make the decision after learning of the actions of the government. They did not specify if the event, at which the last seven men's world records have been set, would be postponed or cancelled altogether.

"We have learned from the news conference of the Berlin Senate on April 21, 2020, that all events with more than 5,000 persons will be prohibited until Oct 24, 2020," the race organisers wrote on Instagram. "We will now deal with the consequences, coordinate the further steps and inform you as soon as we can."

The moves by the German government, which has been widely lauded for its management of the Covid-19 crisis, and the Berlin Marathon, may have significant effects on other sports events in the coming months.

Many events, including major tennis and golf tournaments and other international road races, have already been rescheduled for later this year, in hopes that the dangers of transmitting the coronavirus will be mitigated by then.

In the United States, President Donald Trump has pushed for a quick return for sports, but it remains unclear when and how that can happen.

In South Korea, professional sport returned on Tuesday with a closed-door baseball game as restrictions eased after a steady decline in new Covid-19 cases.

The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China, prompting professional sports including football and baseball to suspend or delay their seasons. But it appears to have brought its outbreak under control thanks to an extensive "trace, test and treat" programme.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that Germans should not forget that "we are still at the very beginning of the pandemic, and that we are a long way from having beaten it".

She said the country needed to proceed "incrementally, slowly, carefully".

The question now, though, is whether the decision from Germany, which has had more testing and a lower death rate from the disease than many of its neighbours, will lead other countries to cancel events that are now scheduled to take place later in the year, especially those in Europe. Tennis' French Open, for example, has been rescheduled for Sept 20-Oct 4 from next month.

Germany has pursued a strategy of early and widespread testing. It also had a large number of intensive care beds, which has helped it keep its death rate relatively low.

As of Tuesday, it had reported 148,174 cases but fewer than 5,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

  • 5k

    Limit on crowd at all events until Oct 24 as stipulated by Germany.

The Berlin Marathon is one of the six World Marathon Majors.

Two other Majors, in Boston and London, that had been scheduled for April 20 and April 26 were moved to Sept 14 and Oct 4 respectively.

Whether those races, as well as the major marathons in Chicago and New York, take place in October and November depends on the trajectory of the virus.

In the United States, the US Open golf tournament was moved to Sept 17-20 and will remain at Winged Foot in New York.

The Masters from April 9-12 at Augusta, Georgia, will now be contested from Nov 12-15.

The US Open tennis championships are still scheduled for Aug 24-Sept 13.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2020, with the headline Berlin run latest to feel curb pain. Subscribe