Tokyo officials angry with Olympic leaders over marathon change

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has expressed her displeasure with the International Olympic Committee’s plan to move the 2020 Summer Games marathon and race walking events to Sapporo.
(Shinji Kita / Kyodo News)

Tokyo officials have turned up the volume on their quarrel with Olympic leaders, who earlier this month announced the marathon and race walking courses for the 2020 Summer Games would be moved far from the city.

Concerned about heat in the capital region, the International Olympic Committee decided to relocate the competitions 500 miles north to Sapporo, where temperatures could be significantly cooler.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike issued a terse response, saying her government was “very surprised to learn of this sudden change in direction.”


On Tuesday, members of Koike’s political party held a news conference to assert the move would cost about $310 million.

“You get the sense that no considerations have been made for the athletes or the spectators who had already bought their tickets and who were looking forward to these events, or the potential spectators who will be cheering on streets,” Taro Shirato, a member of the metropolitan legislature who is herself a triathlete, told reporters.

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Oct. 24, 2019

Organizers had previously announced several moves to compensate for the expected sweltering weather, including an unusually early start time for the marathon and a course that would feature both curbside trees and roadways paved with heat-shielding material.

But IOC concerns were apparently heightened by the recent track world championships in Doha, Qatar, where nearly half of the starters in the women’s marathon — held at midnight — dropped out of the race.

With the 2020 Games’ opening ceremony only nine months off, IOC inspectors are visiting Tokyo this week for a periodic check on preparations.