Can Sapporo host the Olympic marathon with 10 months to go?
TOKYO — The feasibility of holding the women’s marathon during the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha in September was called into question by reporters, due to sweltering sauna-like temperatures.
The International Association of Athletics Federations determined that the marathon could be held because the wet-bulb temperature was expected to be at or below 30 C. When the event was held in the middle of the night, however, the air temperature was 30 C, the humidity exceeded 70 percent and fewer than 60 percent of the marathoners crossed the finish line.
The International Olympic Committee’s sudden announcement Wednesday of a plan to move the 2020 Tokyo Games marathon and race walk events to Sapporo was “apparently triggered by Doha,” according to a source at the Tokyo organizing committee.
Meanwhile, the Japanese side has prepared for 2020 in anticipation of severe high temperatures during the Games. The Marathon Grand Championship, which was used to select some of the members for Japan’s Olympic team, was held on Sept. 15 during intense late summer heat in Tokyo, partly to prepare for the 2020 Games.
“We have prepared for high temperatures by running the MGC on the same course as the Olympic marathon. We can’t help thinking that it’s too late to change the course now,” said Yutaka Taketomi, the coach of the Tenmaya Track and Field Team that MGC winner Honami Maeda belongs to.
Without doubt, the IOC had also known about the severe summer temperatures in Tokyo. However, with less than a year before the 2020 Games begin, the IOC is proposing a drastic change in plans because they are taking the risks of severe temperatures very seriously in response to the Doha championships.
The decision is beneficial in light of the health and safety of marathoners. However, is it feasible to move venues to Sapporo in such a short period of time, when preparations are nearly completed?
Although Sapporo has hosted the annual Hokkaido Marathon in August, given that the city has less than 10 months until the Olympic events will be held, the city will face great challenges.
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