Start time for Tokyo 2020 Olympics marathon in limbo | Inquirer Sports

Start time for Tokyo 2020 Olympics marathon in limbo

/ 06:23 PM September 19, 2018

TOKYO — There is no end in sight for discussions over the time schedule for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon, which is expected to be impacted by the extreme summer heat.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has set the marathon’s start time at 7 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than initially planned. However, in the wake of this summer’s heat wave, some have called for introducing daylight saving time while others have proposed holding the marathon’s events at night. The organizing committee is being pressed to review the competition time again.

On July 18, the organizing committee submitted a competition schedule plan to the International Olympic Committee that was approved. The date for the women’s marathon is set for Aug. 2 and the men’s for Aug. 9. In consideration of the high temperatures, the committee changed the start time of the marathon events to 7 a.m. from 7:30 a.m., the time stated when the committee launched its bid to host the 2020 Games.


A senior committee official said some people were of the opinion that it would be hot even at 7 a.m. But the side representing athletes said it would be difficult for athletes if the start time was set too early as they wake up at least three hours before the start of their races, so the committee settled on a 7 a.m. start, according to the official.


However, the temperature exceeded 40 C for the first time in Tokyo on July 23, during a scorching summer heat wave. On the same day, the mercury reached 39 C in central Tokyo, where the marathon events will be held. The temperature in the area was 31.3 C at 7 a.m.

With temperatures more intense than envisaged, a senior official of the National Sports Federation said, “It’s desirable to start [the marathon] at an earlier time.” The athletes’ side is also said to have conveyed a similar view to the organizing committee.

Night event difficult

Given the situation, Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee, urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July to introduce daylight saving time, shifting the clocks back one to two hours during the summer months. If daylight saving time was adopted, competitions in the morning would be shifted to hours when temperatures are relatively cool. But events such as soccer and rugby, which are scheduled to take place in the evening, would be held when temperatures are high.

The competition time schedules are decided based on various conditions, including those related to each sport’s organizations, TV broadcast hours at home and abroad, and public transportation services.

A source linked to the Games said, “I wonder if it would be possible to shift the start times of all the events uniformly by introducing daylight saving time.”


On Sept. 11, Mori said, “Some members of the National Governors’ Association proposed holding the event at night.” But a source knowledgeable about marathon running said a night race would make it difficult for athletes, who are accustomed to competing in the morning and daytime, to coordinate their conditioning.

October option

There have been persistent calls for the 2020 Games to be held in October, like the 1964 Games in Tokyo.

In recent years, however, it has been common to hold the Summer Olympics in July and August. Since the 1992 Barcelona Games, the Olympics has been held in July and August, except for the 2000 Sydney Games.

When bidding to host the 2020 Games, Doha proposed holding them in October. But the Qatari capital failed in the bid, with the IOC expressing a view that holding the Games in October would conflict with other major sports events. Meanwhile, Tokyo won its bid after claiming that with many sunny and warm days, the Japanese capital has an ideal climate in which athletes can perform at their best.

A senior official of the Tokyo metropolitan government said, “As we were responsible for making the bid, it’s extremely difficult for us to ask for the schedule to be changed at this stage.”

But a source close to the organizing committee said, “It’s necessary to consider changing the start time for at least the marathon and race walking, which are likely to take place under scorching conditions.”

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Takaaki Matsumoto, a professor of environmental physiology at Chukyo University, said:  “Under the current start time, there will be a high risk of heatstroke on most parts of the course. To protect the health of athletes and spectators, it’s essential to move the start time forward.”

TAGS: Tokyo, Tokyo 2020 Olympics

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