Olympic events' shift to Sapporo a costly affair

TOKYO • Now that the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) plan to relocate the next year's Olympic Games marathon and race-walk events to Sapporo has been finalised, a mountain of issues has emerged, such as how to set the courses and cover the costs.

Talks have since been concluded with an agreement on four conditions last Friday, including one that states no additional costs will be borne by the metropolitan government, expected to total as much as 30 billion yen (S$376.5 million).

The conditions also included a plan for the Japanese capital and the IOC to jointly hold a marathon event after the Olympics, out of consideration for the host city.

Nevertheless, it has not yet been decided who will shoulder the costs of hosting the events in Sapporo and the costs Tokyo has already spent in preparation.

John Coates, chairman of the IOC's coordination commission for the 2020 Tokyo Games, has told reporters there is a reserve fund to be used for any contingency.

The fund, estimated to be between 100 to 300 billion yen, is for the organising committee to prepare for emergencies.

However, who will pay into the fund remains unclear.

Tokyo also expects to be compensated for the several billion yen it has paid for heat-insulating pavements that curb rising temperatures on road surfaces but details are yet to be concluded.

The organising committee and others are now in a rush to determine the marathon courses in Sapporo in order to get an idea of the costs for the events.

On Saturday, Coates told Japnese daily The Yomiuri Shimbun that the IOC had already informally agreed to have the start and finish lines of the marathons and race-walk events in Odori Park instead of Sapporo Dome, which was originally proposed, due to the huge renovation costs involved.

While it makes sense as the park is also used to stage the Hokkaido Marathon, it is the venue for an annual open-air beer festival.

Thus, if the festival, which attracted about 1.16 million visitors this summer, is cancelled, it would hit the local economy hard.

With snowfall in Sapporo expected to start from this month to April, the weather is also against the IOC. A source close to the Games said: "The course needs to be determined soon, but there are many challenges and it is not easy."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2019, with the headline 'Olympic events' shift to Sapporo a costly affair'. Subscribe