New location plans for 2020 Olympic road events due to heat concerns

Marathon and race walks set to take place in Sapporo, 800km north of host city Tokyo

Plans for next year’s Olympic marathon and race walking events to be held in Sapporo, rather than the host city of Tokyo, have been announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The location change is said to be part of a wide range of measures being taken by Tokyo 2020 to mitigate the effects of the temperatures which may occur next summer.

Sapporo, which was the host city of the 1972 Winter Olympics, is 800km north of Tokyo, with the IOC saying the move would mean “significantly lower temperatures for the athletes”.

In Sapporo, temperatures during the Games period are set to be as much as 5-6C cooler during the day than in Tokyo, it is claimed.

The move is among the recommendations put forward by an IOC working group, which also advised that the 5000m and 10,000m track events should be scheduled for evening sessions and that the marathon and race walk events should be moved to earlier starting times.

“The IOC working group identified the marathon and race walk as the events that would put particular heat stress on the athletes,” said the IOC, adding that the implementation of the initiative to move the marathon and the race walks will be discussed with all the stakeholders concerned.

“We have been working closely with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 on the potential weather conditions at next year’s Olympic Games and will continue to work with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 on the proposal to move the road events to Sapporo,” said IAAF president Seb Coe.

“Giving athletes the best platform for their performances within the environment they are in is central to all major events, and we will work with the organisers to create the very best marathon and race walk courses for next year’s Olympic Games.”

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “Athletes’ health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns.

“A range of measures to protect the athletes have already been announced. The new far-reaching proposals to move the marathon and race walking events show how seriously we take such concerns.

“The Olympic Games are the platform where athletes can give ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ performances, and these measures ensure they have the conditions to give their best. I would like to thank World Athletics (IAAF), and we look forward to working with them on the implementation.”

At the recent IAAF World Championships in Doha, the road events were held at night to avoid the worst of the heat but athletes still struggled in the hot and humid conditions, with 28 of the 68-strong women’s field dropping out during the race. In the men’s event, a total of 55 athletes finished, with 18 dropping out.

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