Tokyo gives in: Olympic marathons head north to Sapporo
TOKYO — In a feud with the city of Tokyo over moving the Olympic marathon from the Japanese capital to Sapporo, the IOC had its way. The marathon and race walks will go north to what the IOC hopes will make for a cooler race.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who angrily opposed the move in a head-on feud with the IOC, said Friday she would accept it.
“We cannot agree with the final decision, but the IOC has the authority to change,” Koike said on Friday in a meeting with IOC member John Coates. “The most important thing is to assure the success of next year’s games.”
One Japanese news report quoted her saying “it was a painful decision, not an agreement.”
“(The IOC and the city) can now return to the teamwork that has characterized the Tokyo Games,” Coates said after meeting Koike.
The International Olympic Committee abruptly announced the change two weeks ago without consulting Koike or many on the local organizing committee.
An angry Koike called the decision a “shock” and has pushed back against the move since it was announced.
IOC officials, in Tokyo this week to access preparations, met on Friday with Koike, the local organizing committee, and national government officials.
The IOC was not expected to budge — and didn’t.
Coates, the head of the inspection team in Tokyo, said the decision two weeks ago was made after IOC President Thomas Bach saw television scenes of runners collapsing in extreme heat in the marathons at the world track and field championships in Doha, Qatar.
The unilateral move has created bad feelings and offers a rare glimpse of behind-the-scenes disputes between the IOC and local Olympic organizers.
It’s unclear why the IOC moved on its own, although Bach and IOC the leadership must have guessed that Tokyo officials would not readily approve such a radical change. Which was accurate.
The IOC on Friday agreed that Tokyo will not have to pay for moving the marathon and race walks, and that some expenses incurred by the city to organize the marathon could be reimbursed.
According to a national government audit report last year, Tokyo is spending about $25 billion to organize the Olympics. Organizing committee officials dispute the figure and say it is half that, raising the debate about what are — and are not —Olympic expenses.
All of it is taxpayer money except $5.6 billion from a privately financed operating budget.
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