Tokyo plans dawn start for 2020 marathon to beat heat

TOKYO • The organisers of the 2020 Olympic Games have formally proposed moving the start time of the marathon races forward to avoid the worst of Tokyo's scorching summer heat.

The marathon events were initially scheduled to start at 7am local time, but now Games organisers have asked the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), athletics' governing body, to approve moving the start time to either 5.30am or 6am.

Temperatures in Tokyo reached a record 41.1 deg C this year, with the July average reaching higher than 30 deg C, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

There were even calls to introduce daylight savings time for the Games, which will run from July 24 to Aug 9 but, with those plans squashed, an earlier start time is likely to appease athletes and spectators alike worried about the heat.

The times for the rugby and mountain bike events have also been changed after the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Coordination Commission took advice from a team of experts.

"Based on the proposals of the IOC's expert group, we are proceeding to recommended earlier starting times for the men's and women's marathons and the 20km race walk," Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said yesterday.

"As it is necessary to receive approval of such changes from the IAAF, we will work closely with them and aim to make a decision by the end of this year."

All the morning rugby sessions will now start at 9am, 1½ hours earlier than previously scheduled, with the cross-country cycling pushed back an hour into the early evening.

"It will continue to be front of mind for us and the organisers, and front of mind for the teams that are coming here," said commission chair John Coates.

"We will do everything possible to ensure they are not competing at risk."

Tokyo 2020 organisers are due to announce version three of the budget on Dec 21 and the swathe of heat counter-measures proposed, including shades for spectators and a heat-blocking surface to the road will add to the costs involved.

"There is a list of about 20 precautions they think we ought to take and they are not going to be free," Coates added. "But I would be very confident that it would be a balanced budget, which in effect means the operating costs will not cost the taxpayers anything."

The costs for the Games' venues, which are largely all running to schedule, will be absorbed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2018, with the headline 'Tokyo plans dawn start for 2020 marathon to beat heat'. Print Edition | Subscribe