Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathon and race walking could be moved to Sapporo amid heat concerns

Kasey Furutani
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Kasey Furutani
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[Update, Oct 28] The tussle between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to keep the marathon and race-walking events in Tokyo has apparently come to a conclusion. The Japan Times reports that the IOC has decided to move the events to Sapporo. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government's plan to move the races to 3am or 5am was turned down because of the lack of visibility before sunrise. In a preliminary talk prior to the October 31-November 1 meeting to discuss summer heat mitigation, coordination committee chairman John Coates told reporters 'It’s not a matter of whether the city insists. The decision has been taken.'

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[Update, Oct 25] The Japan Times reports that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is finding ways to keep the marathon and race walking events in Tokyo, potentially moving the start time to 3am or 5am, despite the International Olympic Committee's announcement to move them to Sapporo. There will be a meeting late next week (October 30 to November 1) for further discussion.

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The dog days of Tokyo summers are notoriously hot and humid, with the average temperature peaking around 36ºC. Heat-related illnesses are increasing for the everyday commuter – so what about the athletes competing in next summer’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics? 

On October 16, the International Olympic Committee announced their plan to move the marathon and walking race events 800 kilometres north to Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island and prefecture. Sapporo is 'five to six degrees centigrade cooler during the day than in Tokyo,' according to the IOC statement. Famous for its powdery snow in winter, beer and the 1972 Winter Olympics, Sapporo is also a popular summer destination for those looking to escape Tokyo's overbearing heat and humidity. 

If you're planning on visiting Tokyo for the marathon or race walking events, don't make any changes to your travel plans just yet. While the IOC has given their official statement, the Tokyo 2020 official website has not confirmed the move. There are currently conflicting reports: The Japan Times reported that the events are 'planning' to move while The Guardian says the events 'will be moved'. 

The marathon and race walking times have been fluctuating over the past year. According to The Japan Times, the race was originally scheduled for August 2 and August 9 at 7.30am. Then in July 2018, the time was moved earlier to 7am, and then again to 6am. However, the early morning could still be too hot and humid to be safe for athletes, spectators and volunteers. Tokyo 2020 is still making changes amid heat concerns, including time changes for rugby and cycling as well as potentially introducing the umbrella hats.

Planning to stay in Tokyo? Here are our recommendations for regional restaurants, including Sapporo's spicy soup curry.

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