Uprooting the Tokyo Marathon

(ATR) Moving the marathon to Sapporo ... the devil is in the details.

(ATR) The IOC figures out how to run the marathon in Sapporo.

The marathon and race-walking events are moving to Sapporo to avoid risk for athletes in Tokyo’s sweltering summer heat. The city in northern Japan, host to the 1972 Winter Olympics as well as soccer matches in the 2020 Games, is about 800 km north of Tokyo.

Event time changes for three triathlon events in Tokyo and the long distance equestrian event at the Sea Forest venue have also been confirmed. The changes are also meant to counter heat.

"All three of the triathlon events are coming forward by one hour each," IOC sport director Kit McConnell tells media after day two of an IOC EB meeting in Lausanne.

The equestrian eventing competition will now start between 0730 and 0800, he says.

"We’re looking to finish the equestrian event by approximately 11 o’clock for the horse welfare with the day heating up."

McConnell emphasized the importance of the finalization of the Sapporo marathon details. IOC president Thomas Bach initiated the venue change after watching heat-related difficulties encountered by runners in September at the Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

"Key elements of the courses and also the competition schedule are important building blocks showing the progress that we’ve made since moving these events to Sapporo and also giving a clear basis to the athletes and the other areas we need to move forward with the planning," he said.

Sapporo’s Odori Park was confirmed as the starting and finishing point for the two marathons and three race walking events. Still to be determined is the second section of the marathon route. A 20km loop will be utilized for the first section of the marathon, with decision on the last section coming in a few weeks, in consultation with World Athletics and Tokyo 2020.

The men’s marathon was confirmed for August 9, the final day of the Games, with the women’s event taking place the day prior. Both marathons will begin at 0700.

IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi offered further insight into the IOC’s decision to move events from Tokyo to Sapporo.

"It is a result of creating better conditions for athletesand no one can dispute that the IOC is standing for making better conditions on the field of play, health and safety for the athletes," Dubi said at a press briefing following day two of the IOC EB meeting in Lausanne.

Dubi noted that it is the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s responsibility to handle the majority of costs required to stage the event, as if it were in Tokyo. But Dubi said extra costs required by moving the races will be handled by the IOC.

"However, there are additional constraints that are added with the move to Sapporo and this is some of the elements of the support staff and accommodations, where the IOC will look into contributing," he said.

Open Water Swim Venue Concerns

As Tokyo’ssweltering summer heat remains a concern, swimmers and swim coaches are worried about water temperatures in Tokyo Bay, where the 10km open water swim is planned.

Asked by Around the Rings if the IOC would consider another venue change, McConnell says nothing is planned.

He said if the data is obtained and verified that indicates risk to athletes, the IOC would consider a time change, but not a new venue.

"For the water temperature, the recordings that we have, the information isn’t there for us to make the compelling case of moving the start time forward, and certainly not the venue," he said. "Let’s be very clear on that – we’re not looking to move the venue."

Positive Report for Tokyo 2020

Dubi praised the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee for delivering an excellent report to the EB, one of six organizing committee reports heard by the IOC leaders on Wednesday in Lausanne.

"Overall, it is incredibly positive that the constructions are on time and the venues look magnificent," Dubi told media at IOC headquarters.

"The operations are well underway, in terms of revenues they are record-breaking. Ticketing is hitting new marks. We have eight billion that have put their names down to access tickets and will know the results of the second wave soon.

"We cannot give enough tickets to the NOCs, who are requesting more, so overall we have a very positive report for Tokyo," says Dubi.

The three-day IOC Executive Board concludes on Thursday with a briefing from IOC president Thomas Bach.

Reported in Lausanne by Brian Pinelli.