By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – A surprise move of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics marathon races and race walk events to cooler Sapporo from the capital was sudden but it will not affect the credibility of the International Olympic Committee, a senior IOC official said on Wednesday.
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.
The decision angered Tokyo’s local government which reluctantly agreed to the move some 800 kilometres to the north as well as Games organisers who had already been working on the events in the capital since being awarded the Games back in 2013.
“Of course, it was a very fast process and we hear the views about the way it was done but there was consultation and the logical result was to move to conditions that allow athletes to perform at their best,” the IOC’s Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi told reporters.
“I think credibility is also built on consistency. Safety and security of the athletes comes first. This is how to build credibility,” he said when asked about whether future hosts saw this last-minute change as a unilateral move from the part of the IOC.
Dubi said official data during this summer’s test races showed the competitions next year could likely be held in conditions that World Athletics considers as prohibiting for top competitions due to a combination of the high heat and humidity.
“One thing that we learned this summer… is what the athletics family called the red or black flag conditions. Creating better conditions for athletes. No doubt about that and this is how credibility is built over time,” Dubi said.
He said the IOC would also support organisers financially.
“If there are new requirements or any decision that affects the organisation then the IOC will look favourably to contribute financially,” he said.
“We will not only discuss about logistics but we will also decide about the parts the IOC will cover in terms of cost. What matters for us is to be really good partners.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)