Kenya: Elite Only London Marathon Now Planned for October 4

London Marathon organisers Friday night announced that this year's rescheduled race will go ahead on October 4. But for elite athletes only.

Mass runners have been excluded due to fears over the coronavirus pandemic.

The race was initially scheduled for April 26 but was moved to October 4 with other big city races that form the World Marathon Majors -- namely Boston, Chicago, Berlin and New York -- cancelled.

The sixth race in the series, the Tokyo Marathon, was run in March as an elites -only race. The race organisers in London, led by race director Hugh Brasher, made the announcement as defending men's champion and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge heads to the Maasai Mara this weekend to watch the wildebeest migration as a Kenya Tourism Board destination ambassador.

Kenya's tourism officials are expected to use Kipchoge's build-up and competition in London to market Kenya as a preferred tourism destination in the continent.

Kenya's women's world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei is the defending London Marathon women's champion.

London Marathon organisers said October's race will be run in a "secure biosphere" due to coronavirus restrictions.

"Elite races for men, women and wheelchair athletes will take place on an enclosed looped course in St James's Park in a secure biosphere," they said in a statement. The long-awaited head-to-head between Kipchoge, also the first man to break the two-hour mark, and Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele will headline the men's race.

The times count towards Olympic qualification for the 2020 Games in Tokyo which have been delayed by 12 months.

Although Britain is over the first bout of the virus, restrictions are still in place, including on large crowds, and no spectators will be allowed to watch the athletes take on 19.8 laps of the central London park.

"Today is a day of sadness, but also I think it's a day of certainty," said event director Hugh Brasher. Nearly 43,000 runners competed last year in the race.

Sport is expected to play a key role as the global tourism industry cautiously reopens in the face of the Covid-19 challenge.

Speaking ahead of Kipchoge's trip to Maasai Mara this weekend, Kenya Tourism Board CEO, Betty Radier said the board is actively exploring additional marketing options for the destination with sports tourism featuring prominently among the available avenues.

"We are increasingly using both local and global sporting events, as well as renowned sports personalities, to raise Kenya's profile as a top tourism destination.

"By virtue of the eyeballs both entities are able to attract, they make for favourable avenues through which a country can profile its destination and convert the same to actual tourist footfall into the country."

"By virtue of athletes such as Eliud Kipchoge participating in top sporting events, the world is able to associate him with the destination, and in turn, the country benefits by showcasing its attractions to the global audience; in turn translating to an increase in number of visitors from around the world."

Kenya has recently invested hundreds of millions of shillings to elevate local sporting events to international calendars thereby attracting top global personalities and helping broadcast the events live to millions of homes globally.

The Magical Kenya Open, for instance, is now part of the European Tour, guaranteeing it live TV airplay across the world's top channels such as golf channel and sky sports, and helping promote the country's tourism product to over 300 million homes globally.

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