Elite runners take part in Delhi marathon despite COVID-19 and pollution concerns
Some of the world's leading long-distance runners participated in a half-marathon in New Delhi on Sunday, even as India's capital grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases and air pollution that has recently been among the world's worst.
More than 60 professional runners participated in the race, while several hundred enthusiasts ran in other cities on routes of their choice, using a mobile app to post race timings, said the event organisers.
'Poor' level at Air Quality Index
Although air quality was poor on Sunday, the runners got a bit of a reprieve, as pollution levels in the capital were dramatically better than those of recent weeks.
New Delhi's Air Quality Index was at 252 on a scale of 500, registering at "poor" levels, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. But skies were relatively clear and the readings were significantly below the "severe" levels as high as 488 recorded earlier this month.
Marathon amid pandemic
Marathon amid pandemic (Image for representation)
Elite runners present
Defending champions from Ethiopia, Andamlak Belihu and Tsehay Gemechu, were among the elite athletes running the 21-kilometre (13.1 mile) race.
The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2020 "is a very significant moment for Indian sports since the pandemic began," said Abhinav Bindra, brand ambassador of the event and India's only individual Olympic gold medallist.
COVID measures during marathon
The event is a step toward resuming competitive sports in India and would be a benchmark for other sports to follow, Bindra said.
"The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon will follow the highest level of safety standards, with bio-secure zones to ensure a COVID free race for the elite runners," the organisers had said in a press statement earlier.