Tokyo - The
2020 Olympic marathon and race-walking will be moved to northern Japan
over heat concerns, officials said on Friday, after Tokyo's governor
offered her reluctant support.
The International Olympic Committee's plan had caught Tokyo and 2020
organisers by surprise, with Governor Yuriko Koike repeatedly expressing
her opposition. But on Friday, she said the city would not stand in the
"We cannot agree with the IOC but we will not obstruct the decision
made by the IOC, which has the final decision-making authority," she
said at a meeting with Olympic officials and organisers.
"In other words, this is a decision without an agreement."
The IOC announced last month that it wanted to move the events north
to Sapporo, citing concerns about the hot and humid conditions of the
John Coates, head of the IOC's coordination commission, welcomed
Koike's statement as well as assent from Japan's Olympic minister and
the 2020 organisers.
"I think then it's clear we do have an acceptance of this proposal," he said.
"These are going to be outstanding, outstanding, successful Games."
Coates said the IOC had agreed with the Tokyo government and the
organisers that no other 2020 events would be moved, and that Tokyo
would not bear any costs related to moving the marathon and
He said the body would also look with Tokyo at expenses the city has
already incurred to prepare for hosting the events that will now be held
in Sapporo, in the northern island of Hokkaido.
Despite her comments, Koike made clear that the city remains aggrieved by both the decision and the abrupt way it was announced.
She said she remained convinced that holding the events in Tokyo was
"the best idea", and evoked the disappointment of Tokyo residents who
"have worked so hard in preparation for this event".
Speaking after the meeting she said some residents had already
reserved seats at cafes or even bought condos with views of the route.
But she said she had consulted legal experts but determined "the absolute power of the IOC."
Dragging out the issue "would only cause further burden on athletes," she added.
"That is not what we are trying to achieve."
Coates said the decision was triggered by the world athletics
championships in Doha, which saw dozens of competitors receive medical
attention in hot and humid conditions.
"The IOC was shocked by what we saw in Doha in very similar
conditions in terms of temperature and humidity to what's expected here
in Tokyo," he said last month in defending the decision.
"The IOC has a responsibility under the Olympic charter to always put the health of athletes first."
Concerns about the
Tokyo summer weather have dogged the otherwise relatively smooth
preparations for the 2020 Games, with the city's combination of humidity
and high temperatures making for conditions that experts warn could be
The city and organisers have taken a range of measures, from misting
stations to heat-reflecting road paint, to try to assuage worries.
The marathon and race-walking start times had already been moved up
to counter concerns about the heat, and there were reports Koike sought
to propose starting the events as early as 3:00am.
But Coates said solutions other than moving the events were
impractical, with transportation and filming in the dark among the
obstacles to racing in the early hours.
Tokyo 2020 organisers said Friday that the Paralympic marathon,
scheduled for September 6, is still expected to take place in Tokyo. But
in a sign of the ongoing issue posed by the heat, they said the start
time for two additional events - Olympic triathlon and the equestrian
cross-country - were likely to be moved up.
Moving the marathon will entail logistical challenges, and Coates
said Friday that he expected to talk with the International Association
of Athletics Federations and Hokkaido officials as early as Friday to
begin discussing issues including the route of the events.
The costs involved with the move remain unclear, though Tokyo
officials have suggested they could be in the order of $300 million.
Various proposals have been suggested as something of a consolation
prize for Tokyo, with Koike saying IOC President Thomas Bach had written
to suggest hosting a post-Games "celebratory marathon" using the
original planned route.
There has also been a suggestion that the marathon winners could have
their medals presented in Tokyo during the athletics portion of the