translated by Brett Larner
On Jan. 9 the IAAF announced that it has granted the Mar. 1 Biwako Mainichi Marathon (Lake Biwa Marathon) its gold label, making the elite event Japan's first race to receive the international authority's highest ranking. The IAAF upgraded Biwako's status after reviewing last year's events based on field size, elite field, organization and other criteria.
The IAAF's label program began last year, with big-city marathons such as Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York receiving top rankings. Japan's famous races were highly ranked on organizational ability but did not reach the top tier due to problems including the makeup of their elite fields and the lack of international broadcast. This month's Osaka International Women's Marathon, last month's Fukuoka International Marathon and other elite races remain as silver label events due to these issues.
Having begun two years ago as Japan's first big-city marathon and this year adding elite prize money and an elite women's field in its third running, the Tokyo Marathon remains as a silver label event. An IAAF official explained the group's rationale for this ranking, saying, "Last year there were no elite women, only an elite men's field."
Translator's note: Based on my understanding of the IAAF's ranking criteria and on what the article says about Osaka, Fukuoka and Tokyo receiving silver rankings again, this decision is extremely surprising. Biwako is a small, elite men-only race just like Fukuoka. Even if it were secretly following Tokyo and adding an elite women's field and an international broadcast this year it did not meet those criteria last year. Biwako is losing its main sponsor, Rohm, after this year's running; together with Rikuren's recent relaxation of rules regarding race sponsorship could this new ranking reflect an attempt to make Biwako more attractive to a sponsor which might be in a position to save the historic race?