Air pollution in Bangkok has stymied Thailand's dream of becoming the marathon capital of Asia, with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) determining this weekend if the Amazing Thailand Marathon Bangkok 2020 (ATMBKK) has to be cancelled.
The 3rd edition of the marathon, sponsored by the government, is set for Feb 2.
Of the 28,000 people registered for this race, 20% are foreign participants, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
"If the air pollution is at an unhealthy level and harmful to runners, we don't have a choice -- we must cancel this event. Hopefully, we can still keep going like last time," said Mr Phiphat, referring to the 2019 edition of the race, also haunted by poor air quality.
The TAT wants to raise awareness about ATMBKK as part of its ambition to make Bangkok the marathon capital of Asia.
The agency wants the race to be ranked among the top 20 marathons in which leading runners from around the world want to participate.
As a co-host, the agency is monitoring the pollution level on a daily basis and will follow the Public Health Ministry's instruction on whether to withdraw this year's event, said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
However, if the event continues with the same schedule, all necessary preparations are already in place.
The agency is seeking cooperation from stakeholders such as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to ask construction sites along the running route to stop working three days before the race.
The road will be cleaned thoroughly to wash away the dust.
More water stops will be available to runners, as well as increased misting fans to clear the toxic miasma.
Mr Yuthasak said the decision must be made this weekend as 6,000-7,000 foreigners have to plan their trips in advance.
If the smog persists every year, the TAT may consider moving the event permanently to another month less affected by seasonal pollution. But he conceded it is hard to find an appropriate date that will not clash with other major events around the world.
"It's a situation that we cannot control as this event is scheduled in the winter season when the pollution is much worse than usual," said Mr Yuthasak.
ATMBKK 2020 has a budget of 53 million baht and is expected to generate 900 million for the economy. The top three expenditures are transport (480 million baht), food (174 million) and accommodation (167 million).