By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – The women’s marathon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and all the race walks have been rescheduled, following the controversial decision taken in October to move the events out of the capital 800 kilometres north to the city of Sapporo.
Tokyo 2020 organisers announced the rescheduling on Wednesday, following discussions with the International Olympic Committee and World Athletics, to ease the burden on National Olympic Committees and athletes travelling to northern Japan.
It now means that all the marathon and race walk events are scheduled to be held on four consecutive days, from August 6 to 9, with the men’s marathon remaining on the final day of the Games, as per tradition.
“Athletes’ health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns, and the decision to move the marathon and race walk events to Sapporo shows how seriously we take such concerns,” the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission chair, Kirsty Coventry, said in a statement.
Both marathons will start at 7.00 am local time (2200 GMT). The women’s marathon was initially set for Aug. 2.
The IOC stunned Games organisers in October by announcing the marathon, one of the most prestigious events at any Olympics and one especially beloved in Japan, would be moved to the northern Japanese city of Sapporo to avoid the worst of Tokyo’s summer heat.
Tokyo temperatures in July and August, when the city will host the Games, regularly exceed 30 degrees Celsius with high humidity adding to the discomfort.
“We appreciate that… Sapporo Odori Park could be approved as a venue so quickly following the decision to move these events,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said.
“With less than eight months to go until the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Games, Tokyo 2020 will continue to work closely as one team with all the parties involved in their preparation.”
The October decision did not go down well with organisers, who had already done extensive planning for the events, including a series of cooling measures for the athletes, nor with the Tokyo governor, who reluctantly consented to the move.
When Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964, they were held in October — an option no longer possible due to international sports schedules. Next year’s Games run from July 24 to Aug. 9.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Lausanne, Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Christian Radnedge)