Switch to Sapporo marathons, walks is final: IOC

TOKYO • The chairman of the Coordination commission for the 2020 Games of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has informed the Governor of Tokyo that the decision has already been made to move the location of the marathons and race walks to Sapporo.

"The IOC, always being mindful of the health and welfare of the athletes, decided to make these changes," commission chief John Coates told Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike at the metropolitan government building on Friday night.

However, she is still "firm on the idea of holding them in Tokyo", with the matter set to be discussed during meetings of the commission from Wednesday including representatives from the IOC and the Tokyo organising committee.

Coates pointed out the risks of holding marathons in Tokyo, referring to the fact that many runners quit mid-race at the recently concluded World Athletics Championships in Qatar because of the extreme heat and said "the IOC was shocked by what we saw in Doha".

He also ruled out further moving up the starting times, which Tokyo has been studying, saying the idea runs against the spirit of "athletes first".

But he proposed holding the medal ceremonies at the New National Stadium in Tokyo along with the closing ceremony, saying he wanted to minimise the impact of the relocation for Tokyo.

"It's not a matter of (whether) the Tokyo government insists. The decision has been taken," he said after the meeting. "The IOC executive board is the competent authority to take a decision such as this."

Asked whether there is a possibility to hold marathons and race walks in Tokyo, he explicitly said: "The answer to the question is no."

He added the organising committee can use its reserve fund to finance the move to Sapporo and the IOC has an obligation to deal with the matter.

Ms Koike, however, insisted she was still "confident (of holding the events in Tokyo) because counter-heat measures have been endorsed by the IOC" and "Tokyo has accountability to its people".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2019, with the headline 'Switch to Sapporo marathons, walks is final: IOC'. Print Edition | Subscribe