Olympic Marathon Plans to Move Out of Tokyo to Cooler Location

The proposal comes just weeks after marathoners struggled in the brutal heat at the IAAF World Championships in Doha.

  • With dangerously high temperatures expected in Tokyo for next summer’s Olympic games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is proposing moving the marathon north, outside of Tokyo.
  • The current proposition is to move the city north to Sapporo, the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics.
  • The idea will be discussed at a meeting later this month.

The heat expected at next year’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics has athletes and organizers worried about how that will effect competition—and the health of the participants. These concerns only grew after the IAAF World Championships in Doha earlier this month, where similar weather conditions had athletes seriously struggling.

On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a proposal to move the marathon location to a cooler location, according to a press release.

Many steps have already been taken in preparation of the high temperatures seen in Tokyo during the summer, particularly around August when the games will be held. These have included adding more shade, holding events in cooler times like morning or evening, and posting water sprays and water access.

Now, it appears they are taking these measures one step further, with the proposal that certain events—including the marathon and race walking—will be moved farther north to the city of Sapporo, the host of the 1972 Olympic Winter Games. According to the press release, temperatures for race day would be five to six degrees cooler during the day in the city, which is located almost 800 km north of Tokyo.

“Athletes’ health and wellbeing are always at the heart of our concerns,” said IOC president Thomas Bach in a press release. “A range of measures to protect the athletes have already been announced. The new far-reaching proposals to move the marathon and race walking events show how seriously we take such concerns. The Olympic Games are the platform where athletes can give ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ performances, and these measures ensure they have the conditions to give their best.”

This location change is expected to be discussed at a special session meeting between October 30 and November 1. The initiative will be debated between the city of Tokyo, the IAAF, the National Olympic Committees, Olympic Broadcasting Services, and the Rights-Holding Broadcasters.

Heat countermeasures for the rest of the Olympic events will also be discussed after the Tokyo 2020 of the International Federations released the results of a survey on the topic.

“We have been working closely with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 on the potential weather conditions at next year’s Olympic Games, and will continue to work with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 on the proposal to move the road events to Sapporo,” said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe in a press release. “Giving athletes the best platform for their performances within the environment they are in is central to all major events, and we will work with the organizers to create the very best marathon and race walk courses for next year’s Olympic Games.”

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to run between July 24 and August 9.

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