Home Society & Culture Why Sapporo Will Host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon Instead of Tokyo

Why Sapporo Will Host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon Instead of Tokyo

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An overview of why the Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathon will be held in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

With just months until the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently decided to move the Olympic Marathon events from Tokyo to Sapporo, the capital city of the northern prefecture of Hokkaido. This sudden change was met with mixed reactions from within the Japanese community and marathon lovers worldwide.

Beating the Tokyo Heat

According to the IOC, the decision to change the host city of the marathon came after concerns were raised about the sweltering summer temperatures of Tokyo. Temperatures in Japan’s capital city regularly hit above 30°C (86°F) in July and August, with the heat often accompanied by high levels of humidity.

The adverse effects of such high temperatures were witnessed in the World Championships held earlier this year in Doha (Qatar), which saw more than 24% of the men’s marathon participants failing to reach the finish line. The women’s event didn’t fare any better with more than 40% of the participants failing to finish the race. The marathon event was scheduled at midnight to avoid the extreme temperatures but that seemed to have had more or less no effect on the outcome.

Reluctant Acceptance

The decision to change the host city was met with anger and resistance by Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, who hasn’t enjoyed a very cordial relationship with the Olympic organizers ever since she took office in 2016. “We consider it an unprecedented turn of events to make such an abrupt proposal with no consultation or discussion whatsoever with the host city Tokyo,” said Koike who was quite vocal in her criticism of the IOC. However, after weeks of resisting the IOC’s decision, she reluctantly dropped her opposition in order to move on to “assure the success of next year’s Games.” She was quoted by the local media as claiming this to be a “painful decision, not an agreement.”

But Who Will Foot the Bill?

The relocation of the event from Tokyo to Sapporo has also raised questions about who will pay for this move. According to sources within the Tokyo Metropolitan Legislature, the move is expected to cost a whopping ¥34 billion ($310 million) and Tokyo’s local government has no plans to bear or share this financial burden. The Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori on the other hand expects Tokyo’s financial support in arranging the events in the northern prefecture.

Sapporo and the New Course

The city of Sapporo which is known for its world-famous ski resorts hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. Sapporo’s weather in early August, is on the warm side with an average temperature of 26°C (~79°F), but this makes it at least 6°C cooler than Tokyo and significantly less humid. The Tokyo 2020 organizing group unveiled the new marathon course earlier this month. The new course is drastically different from the original course approved for Tokyo. The original course had a relatively flat elevation profile with a hill descending roughly 100 meters at the start and then going back up in the last mile to the finish line. The elevation profile for the new course has not been released yet, but with what is known, the course will follow a similar path to the Hokkaido Marathon which is a well-known marathon in Japan.

The announced course of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathon

No Turning Back

With a number of event plans being changed due to the impending heat conditions in the hot Tokyo summer, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are proving to be a handful for the IOC and the Japanese government. The Japanese government which has already spent 3 times the proposed budget for the games has been trying to improve the conditions by resurfacing roads with cooling material and using artificial snow and mist machines to keep participants and spectators cool. Will these measures make any difference, only time will tell but one thing that is clear for now is that the marathon participants in Sapporo won’t be getting to make their big finish in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

Featured image: Pixabay
Insert imaga: Olympic.org

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