The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today announced that Sapporo Odori Park in Hokkaido was approved as the host venue for marathon and race walk events at an IOC Executive Board meeting held in Lausanne, Switzerland. This followed confirmation from World Athletics.
“Athletes’ health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns and the decision taken to move the marathon and race walk events to Sapporo shows how seriously we take such concerns,” said Kirsty Coventry, chair of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission. “We also want the Olympic Games to be the platform where athletes can give ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ performances, and this new venue ensures that they will have the conditions to give of their best.”
At this year’s athletics World Championships held in Doha, almost half of the field of the women’s marathon failed to finish due to the heat. This past summer, for 24 consecutive days between July 26 and August 18, the daily lowest temperature in Tokyo was 25 degrees or higher, the second-longest hot spell since records began in 1876.
The number of deaths from heatstroke was in the hundreds while tens of thousands were hospitalized. With concerns about the weather at next year’s Olympics growing, the IOC officially decided to move the marathon and walking events from the capital to Hokkaido. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who wasn’t consulted, has said she was surprised by the decision.
Sapporo Odori Park has been used in the past as a venue for the Hokkaido Marathon. At around 7.8 hectares, the large park in central Sapporo was also chosen because its layout allows both marathon and race walk events to be held at the same location. The 2019 Sapporo Snow Festival, held annually at Odori Park, hosted 2.7 million visitors, a record number.
“We appreciate that through the support of so many people, Sapporo Odori Park could be approved as a venue so quickly following the decision to move these events,” said Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto. “With less than eight months to go until the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Games, Tokyo 2020 will continue to work closely as one team with all the parties involved in their preparation.”
The IOC, World Athletics and Tokyo 2020 also agreed on 1 and 2 km-loops for race walk and a 20 km-loop course for the first stage of the marathon, leaving as a legacy a half marathon course, which can host a future annual event. World Athletics and Tokyo 2020 will continue their discussions on the second half of the course and will conduct a site inspection in order to reach a mutual decision on overall operations by mid-December.
In addition, during the 2020 Games, temporary facilities will be constructed at the park to support operations.
Marathon and race walk events are now scheduled to be held on four consecutive days from August 6–9 August to facilitate the support of NOC officials and coaches to the athletes, as Sapporo is located 800 km to the north of Tokyo.
Feature photo by beeboys / Shutterstock.com