Athletes compete during the men's marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. Photo: AP file
sports

IOC Tokyo Olympic marathon edict should give pause to other cities

53 Comments
By PAUL NEWBERRY

Tokyo must be having some serious second-thoughts about taking on the Olympic Games.

In addition to being saddled with an enormous tab, the host city has now lost one of the Summer Games' signature events.

The International Olympic Committee ordered the marathons moved out of Tokyo to avoid the summer heat — a rash, overcautious edict that should give pause to any city considering a future bid for the games.

No matter how much money a city and country spends on this bloated monstrosity — the 2020 bill has climbed to a staggering $25 billion — the IOC left no doubt Friday that it has the final say on pretty much everything.

Therefore, the 42-km Olympic marathon course will wind through the streets of Sapporo.

Not Tokyo.

The IOC didn't even bother consulting with the organizing committee before making the decision, a pompous, dictatorial move that wouldn't have happened if these games were being held in a country that has far more sway within the Olympic movement, namely the United States or China.

While Tokyo's blistering summer heat is an issue, it's not much different climate-wise than Atlanta (host of the 1996 Summer Games) or Athens (2004) or Beijing (2008), the latter also plagued by thick pollution that added to the athletes' risk.

But the IOC was terrified of the images it saw at the world track and field championships, held a month ago in the desert emirate of Qatar. Even though both marathons began around midnight, the temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) for the start of the women's race with stifling humidity, resulting in only 40 of 68 runners being able to finish. Many of those who didn't collapsed on the course and were carried away on stretchers; others rode wheelchairs to receive medical care.

Ethiopian distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie said it was fortunate that no one died.

"With all the good work that's gone into preparations, we didn't want Tokyo being remembered — in the minds of your people and the minds internationally — by some of the scenes we saw in Doha," said IOC member John Coates, who is overseeing Tokyo's preparations but is essentially the mouthpiece for his boss, IOC poohbah Thomas Bach.

Tokyo's leaders, led by city Gov Yuriko Koike, vigorously fought the decision.

But they threw up the white flag Friday, conceding they were powerless to stop the almighty IOC.

"The IOC has the final authority to change," Koike said, "and we will not obstruct the decision."

More than a year ago, Tokyo organizers proudly announced a course that would have taken runners past some of the some of the capital's most iconic landmarks, including the Kaminarimon ("Thunder Gate"), Imperial Palace, Zojoji Temple and Nihonbashi Bridge.

The marathon is one of the few events at an Olympics that allows the host city to show off its best side to the rest of the world. Essentially, it's a two-hour travelogue winding through the top attractions, punctuated by thousands of cheery locals lining the streets.

Most notably, the 2020 marathons were set to start and finish at the new Olympic Stadium, reviving a longstanding tradition that was abandoned at the last two Summer Games in London and Rio.

"Visualizing running into the stadium, having that moment of silence where you go through a tunnel and then you get in the stadium and people are going nuts, it's a really cool picture to think about," said American runner Desiree Linden, who competed in the past two Olympic women's marathons. "It's certainly motivating."

Now, it's gone.

The marathons, as well as the race-walking events, will be held some 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) north of Tokyo, in the city that hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics.

The decision did not sit well with Canada's Evan Dunfee, who finished fourth in the men's 50-kilometer race walk in Rio.

"The IOC has imposed its all-powerful will on everyone involved and it is the athletes who ultimately lose," he wrote on Twitter. "And I've yet to hear a defendable rationale from the IOC."

Britain's Tom Bosworth was also upset. He placed sixth in the 20-km race walk at the 2016 Games.

"Truly gutted," Bosworth tweeted. "An Olympic experience is a lifetime of work, and may only happen once. Years preparing, dreaming, training, just to get close and your event is moved to the other end of the country ... for reasons that weren't a problem a year prior."

For Tokyo, this is another blow to its original plans for hosting the games. The IOC already persuaded the city to move several events to existing venues outside of the capital in hopes to reducing the enormous price tag, most notably shifting the track cycling and mountain biking to a facility some 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Tokyo.

But that move made sense from a financial standpoint, and the organizers signed off on it.

Not this time. The marathons and race walks were a chance for tens of thousands of locals to get a free, firsthand look at the games — no small consideration given the demand for tickets in Tokyo has been 10 times greater that the supply.

Also, there is plenty of debate over how much of a difference it will even make to hold the marathons and race walks in Sapporo.

Without question, it's generally cooler in the northern city. For instance, Tokyo's average temperature on Aug 9 — the scheduled date of the men's marathon — ranges from a high of 85 degrees (29 Celsius) to a low of 79 (26 Celsius), according to accuweather.com. By comparison, the historical temperatures for Sapporo on that date span from 77 to 68 degree (25 to 20 Celsius).

Of course, there's nothing precise about the weather.

This past Aug. 2 — exactly one year before the scheduled date of the women's Olympic marathon — the temperature climbed to 94 degrees (34 Celsius) in Sapporo, just 1 degree cooler than it was in Tokyo on that same day.

"If it's not guaranteed to be 10, 15 degrees cooler," Australian marathoner Sinead Diver said, "I think I prefer to have it in Tokyo."

Sorry, the IOC has made up its mind.

And no one else gets a say.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


53 Comments
Login to comment

Tokyo must be having some serious second-thoughts about taking on the Olympic Games.

Said by every recent host of the Olympics. In their blind arrogance and desire to be "first" cities like Tokyo and others will go to great lengths to put their people into debt for a couple of weeks of advertising!

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Can't really blame Koike though, she is not responsible for the bid and was elected after it was decided.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

The International Olympic Committee ordered the marathons moved out of Tokyo to avoid the summer heat — a rash, overcautious edict

Incorrect. This was a reasonable edict for safety. To be fair, the IOC should never have approved the dates for these Olympics given its no secret how hot and humid Tokyo is in August.

This is a good decision after a series of bad decisions by the JOC and the IOC.

8 ( +18 / -10 )

Tokyo must be having some serious second-thoughts...

This Tokyoite never had "second thoughts." My first thought years ago was that this was going to be a wildly expensive, unnecessary and overheated debacle.

24 ( +25 / -1 )

Not to defend the corrupt IOC but the Japanese side should blame themselves. With dozens of heat related deaths during that period every summer by people not even doing sports, Tokyo falsely advertised in the bidding for the Olympic that the period between July 24 and Aug 9 "*provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best" with "many days of mild and sunny weather." *

9 ( +17 / -8 )

I think the IOC let their true colors show with the move as they have in recent years made cities bid for the "pleasure" of allowing the IOC to host events in their city. As unpopular as this sounds, I'm happy the IOC did this. By forcing the event relocation, the IOC has relinquished the argument that "all events must be in the host city". I hope Paris and Los Angeles use this precedent to spread events around their respected regions.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

How about just asking the athletes. Let them decide where THEY want to run. Not some powerhouse bully that will sit in an air conditioned room during the events.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Safety first, people. Safety first.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

The first paragraph is truly poorly written.

To phrase it as “taking on” the games as if they volunteered to help half a million refugees out of the goodness of their heart and are now facing difficulties in carrying out such a noble pursuit.

The government ignored every reasonable argument against hosting the games, yet choose to do so for reasons only they know, but I’ll ascribe it to ego and pride.

This is lazy writing and should be edited.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

In addition to being saddled with an enormous tab, the host city has now lost one of the Summer Games' signature events.

Tokyo might have had a chance to keep the marathon in the capital but the decision was made without input from the Governor due to her own heavy handed way of dealing with the IOC.

When Koike first became governor, the Boat race had already been decided by the IOC to be held in Miyagi Prefecture. Koike went their after the fact to inspect. She was seen riding in a boat and the officials there ushered the VIP around. She undid the decision, moved it back and really rocked the boat with feathers flying everywhere.

Thus time they made the Sapporo decision without consulting her. It was thought that if it was a decision by consensus, moving the marathon venue to Sapporo would have to go over her dead body. They said screw it let’s go ahead and change it. Decision final.

Most of us have experienced this before. The person who sings in a different key and turn down our ideas is our opposition and a pain in the ... right or wrong.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The IOC didn't even bother consulting with the organizing committee before making the decision, a pompous, dictatorial move that wouldn't have happened if these games were being held in a country that has far more sway within the Olympic movement, namely the United States or China.

Whatever anyone thinks of the actual moving of the marathon out of Tokyo, there is no denying the following.

-- The IOC IS pompous, arrogant and condescending!!

-- The IOC IS dictatorial!!

-- The IOC uses and abuses countries, cities, taxpayers and athletes and they demand to be treated as royalty!

No taxpayer should ever support any government or organization that wishes to bring the Olympics to their city or country!!!

Its probably wishful thinking, but I hope more and more countries / cities begin to tell the IOC to go get stuffed, that they have no desire to spend billions of dollars for the "privilege" of hosting the Olympics!!!

What a wasteful boondoggle!!!

16 ( +17 / -1 )

The International Olympic Committee ordered the marathons moved out of Tokyo to avoid the summer heat — a rash, overcautious edict that should give pause to any city considering a future bid for the games.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Funny that people are just starting to realize it's hot in the summer and it's not the best time to be outside engaging in intense physical activity. The IOC needs to seriously reconsider the idea of a summer Olympics going forward if this is an issue for them. Perhaps the Olympics should be moved to a different time of year like Spring or Fall.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

2024 Paris Olympics, 2028 Los Angeles Olympics,,,,,,,No doubt IOC would change hot host cities to cooler locations.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I have a very low opinion of the IOC, but the Japanese government is also to blame because most of what has happened so far, with huge cost overruns and inflexibility over facilities, schedules, and negotiations was entirely predictable. The exact form of how this happened, the marathon moving etc., is an expensive surprise, hundreds of millions of USD on unnecessary heat reflecting roads etc. but is simply an example of what a host city generally goes through.

The Games themselves will be well attended and there will be lots of smiling people. Look at the RWC to see how Japanese people love sports, even those they barely understand. Unfortunately, Japan is not rich enough to simply ignore the costs. Too many people in this country have too little.

Personally, I think the most important point is that Sapporo must not be allowed to bid for the Winter Olympics. If it does, the whole thing will happen again.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The IOC didn't even bother consulting with the organizing committee before making the decision, a pompous, dictatorial move that wouldn't have happened if these games were being held in a country that has far more sway within the Olympic movement, namely the United States or China.

Gees! Talk about sour grapes! Koike and Tokyo organizers did not need to be consulted. The decision was made by the IOC, who are in control of the games. Running 50 odd kilometers in Tokyo mid-summer heat and humidity will kill athletes. The decision to move the events was made with common sense. The Tokyo organizers complaining about the move shows just how petty and fixated on their own needs they really are. They don’t care about the athletes. Only their reputation and financial gain. Get over it Tokyo! There are still many other events to be held in the Tokyo region.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

In reality, Tokyo is not hosting the games. Japan is. And it is a fact that the Earth is becoming warmer and warmer every year. Comparing 1996 to 2020 is different. I think concern for the athletes well-being is a good decision.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

If Sapporo marathon and walking race should be cancelled if the temperature was above 34°C and humidity was over 80% on the race day in August. Because it would be safety for runners. It happened there a few times in a while.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Doesn't Sapporo have any say?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Gees! Talk about sour grapes! Koike and Tokyo organizers did not need to be consulted.

But they should have been. It's common courtesy.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Regardless, people will die of heatstroke in Tokyo during the Olympics. Other athletes, staff and volunteers, not to mention spectators and mom and pop at home who don't turn on the AC for whatever reason. There will be problems for ambulances navigating busy streets.

Japan will be ridiculed widely for their decision to go forward in July/August.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

We can't talk about hosting regrets until after the Olympics are over. Asian cities like Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo tend to go all out and build up much hype for their events. Beijing and Seoul were 2 of the 3 most profitable Olympics in history. Money earned is what the city cares about the most while the rest of us look at the humanitarian side.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The timing is the problem. Almost anywhere where the Olympics are likely to be held, autumn, not summer, us the best time climate-wise. They should have been held in late September as they have often been in the past.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Really odd to see the negative slant on this article from people that should know better. Tokyo is the same as Atlanta in the summer? Uhhhhh....no. That is just deeply stupid.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

move them, Tokyo doesn't need all this trouble.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"If it's not guaranteed to be 10, 15 degrees cooler," Australian marathoner Sinead Diver said, "I think I prefer to have it in Tokyo.

Should check on humidity and air speed too instead just relying only on temperature.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The writer of this piece writes

The International Olympic Committee ordered the marathons moved out of Tokyo to avoid the summer heat — a rash, overcautious edict that should give pause to any city considering a future bid for the games.

Obviously, he doesn’t live in Japan...

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Moving the marathon events should be a big money maker. People standing on the streets watching the marathon do spin out any money. The only country that cares about those events is Japan so all of the TV revenue from broadcasting the boring marathon comes from Japan. By moving to Sapporo, the large numbers of people in tokyo that would stand in the street and watch, will now watch on TV.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

There is plenty of air conditioning in Tokyo in summer unlike European cities and I doubt any one will die of heatstroke unless they intentionally put themselves in that position. I am also perplexed at why professional marathoners don’t have the common sense to tone it down in high humidity and heat. Are they just incompetent?

-12 ( +0 / -12 )

This is really heartbreaking. Not only will the folks in Tokyo be at a loss but visitors and viewers around the world and to think quoting the article, "This past Aug. 2 — exactly one year before the scheduled date of the women's Olympic marathon — the temperature climbed to 94 degrees (34 Celsius) in Sapporo, just 1 degree cooler than it was in Tokyo on that same day." Just my thoughts.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

By forcing the event relocation, the IOC has relinquished the argument that "all events must be in the host city". 

It might be the first time a marathon has been moved outside the host city, but other events are certainly held elsewhere: football venues in 2012 included Old Trafford, Millennium Stadium (Cardiff), St James's Park (Newcastle), Hampden Park (Glasgow), and Coventry. As well as being far from London, the venues included what are, in non-Olympic football, the primary stadiums of 3 different national teams!

Going outside the host city is common for certain events, such as football, which requires multiple specialized stadiums (so for Beijing 2008, they also used Shanghai, Qingdao and Tianjin for football), and sailing (for obvious reasons). Hong Kong was used for the, er, massively popular equestrian events. It's 1200 miles away and across a border.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

“ While Tokyo's blistering summer heat is an issue, it's not much different climate-wise than Atlanta (host of the 1996 Summer Games) or Athens (2004) or Beijing (2008), the latter also plagued by thick pollution that added to the athletes' risk.

What is the author of this article talking about?

I’m southern European and I spent every summer holiday back in Greece.

Athen like Rome are hot in august but the Mediterranean climate is totally different than the one in Tokyo.

We have a drier summer and at night the temperature goes below 20 degrees with breeze that makes it very comfortable.

Japan have more of a tropical weather compared to ours which makes it very uncomfortable.

I know they want to defend Japan no matter what,but write incorrect things is just wrong.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Bob, while the temperature may have been similar in Sapporo this past August 2, the big difference is the humidity is very different. While Tokyo is close to 80% but Sapporo is less than 50%. That means it "feels 10C hotter in Tokyo than Sapporo at the same temperature. Humidity also prevents the body from cooling itself which is very dangerous for runners.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

How come no mention has ever been made about the women's marathon? They have to run in the same Tokyo heat one week before the men's race.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So many false content or assertion in that article.

No host city ever held all the sports within its area.

Fort next Olympics games, few sports to be held inside Paris, which is tiny in fact.

In Japan, it is all a matter of governors' pride it seems. Medieval times.

Sapporo is idle place and would boost Japan's tourism even more, with use of latest shinkansen from Tokyo !

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I doubt any one will die of heatstroke unless they intentionally put themselves in that position.

like running a marathon, for example.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

This information isn't new. That is the primary reason New York pulled out of all olympic contention. Everyone's economy is hurt by the olympics. China was an outlier. But they also set the bar for the rapid rising cost era of the olympics.

Tokyo is experiencing the same thing everyone else experiences. The olympics doesn't pay off. It profited because they lived in the shadow of Japan which is one of the most visited places in the world. Japan won't profit from the Olympics because it is already frequently visited.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

No matter how much money a city and country spends on this bloated monstrosity — the 2020 bill has climbed to a staggering $25 billion — the IOC left no doubt Friday that it has the final say on pretty much everything.

Therefore, the 42-km Olympic marathon course will wind through the streets of Sapporo.

So what about the citizens of Sapporo? I can see how the IOC can cancel the Tokyo marathon. I can not see how they can force the event on Sapporo. What is next? The IOC simply decides to plonk this expense in your lap? Are we insane?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

4 people apparently don't think safety should come first. Interesting.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"...a pompous, dictatorial move that wouldn't have happened if these games were being held in a country that has far more sway within the Olympic movement, namely the United States or China."

Mr. Newberry (author of the article), you couldn't be more wrong, or more bias, in your article. It wasn't because Japan had more sway than other cities (they got the Olympics because of sway to begin with), it's because they lied flat out about weather conditions in the summer and place they were planning to hold the event. You're right, future host cities need to take note, but take note not to lie, because it is clear in the terms that indeed the IOC can ultimately decide to change things.

"...a rash, overcautious edict that should give pause to any city considering a future bid for the games."

Overcautious? Do you know how many people in Japan die each year from heatstroke? And they are often just sitting in their homes! Why were many schools' sports days moved from September/October to months earlier in the year? Because of extreme heat and the number of heatstroke victims (especially practicing in the summer).

"Sorry, the IOC has made up its mind. And no one else gets a say."

Tokyo had plenty of say, and it was noted they lied. What was it they said in their bid, about the weather? They said it was the "ideal" temperature and weather for holding the Games, and worse, and I hope they are held accountable for any injury and/or death as a result of the heat. In fact, supporters of it, and those who say the IOC made a rash and "overcautious" decision here should be held accountable as well. You remind me of the people who always, after people die because of negligence and/or lies, end up saying, "There is no way we could have known! It is unprecedented!"

3 ( +4 / -1 )

They should do the marathon in Nagano. They have the Zenkoji Temple to see - and it’s less than 2 hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo without going through TSA. One can still watch the Closing without panicking for time.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I think we need to be asking ourselves for an itemized spend list on where the 25 Billion US$ has gone.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The problem is that Tokyo has spent millions of dollars preparing the Marathon course and they cannot get that money back.Also they have to spend more money constructing a new course in Sapporo.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It might be true that in its submission the Japanese Government lied about summer weather conditions in Tokyo, but it's not like the IOC couldn't and wouldn't have checked those claims for itself before awarding the Games. I sympathise with Tokyo for losing the marathon (a fascinating event for many people, a travelogue as much as a sporting event the way that the Tour de France is) but the safety of the athletes should come first.

And the term "the Summer Olympics" is really a misnomer. It's just a term used to distinguish these Games from the Winter Olympics, which is about sports involving snow and ice. As such, there's no reason I can see why the "summer" Games couldn't be held in spring or autumn, as in fact they have been in the past.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'd like to see all future summer games held in Greece.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

They should do the marathon in Nagano.

Nagano city isn't especially cool either, rather it's a sauna in summer. And I'm trying to recall how flat it is.

the 2020 bill has climbed to a staggering $25 billion

Or about 3% of the predicted cleanup cost of Fukushima. Either way it's a staggering amount. London came in at about $15 billion, Rio slightly less.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Marathons are supposed to be tough. I have run 63 and finished them all, 62 of them under 3 hours in all weather conditions. One race, longer than a Marathon, had a finishing rate of less than 50%. It's not unusual for a tough race. Another in Honshu and Kyushu at the beginning of August in the heat and humidity three times. I finished them all, many didn't. Australia in the heat. In the Sahara. In the tradition of the Greek messenger the "message" has to be delivered in all weather conditions.

It's a pathetic cop out.

What if Sapporo says no?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

There is plenty of air conditioning in Tokyo in summer unlike European cities and I doubt any one will die of heatstroke unless they intentionally put themselves in that position. I am also perplexed at why professional marathoners don’t have the common sense to tone it down in high humidity and heat. Are they just incompetent?

Let's see how many people in Tokyo are going to open their homes to a bunch of sweaty "tourists" watching any of the events to allow them the chance to "cool off" with their A/C!!

Omotenashi right? Lol!

This is one of the more asinine comments I have read on JT

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There was a human rights petition from many participating athletes to move it out of Tokyo. JT could have got more information about the other side of the story before writing a biased article.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In the tradition of the Greek messenger the "message" has to be delivered in all weather conditions.

In the Greek story, the messenger fell dead at the arrival.

The problem is that Tokyo has spent millions of dollars preparing the Marathon course and they cannot get that money back.

They run in the streets. Sure they renovated a bit, but all that will still be there permanently after the games. Maybe Koike can organize a "mayor's marathon" the next years and run it herself.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are any wins about this change to Sapporo and really it should have been done from the start.

Having some events in other cities make a lot more people feel part of the event. Tokyo hosts one of the world's biggest marathons every year people can go and watch it then if they really want to watch one so much.

The chance of a major disaster is now greatly lessened which has to be great for Tokyo, Japan and the event. The leading runner collapsed and very nearly died near the end of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast last year and it was only 30 degrees and by the sea so not very humid. If he had died it would have dominated memories of the whole Games.

They should spread a few soccer and hockey matches around the north of Japan as well as heat will be torturous for those events too.

It is a totally crazy time to hold the Olympics. Surely the American TV audience is not such a huge deal?

Just how many fewer people in America would watch if the Olympics were held in early May or even now in early November?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Coskuri That story makes no sense. It was written 500 years after the event. Herodotus wrote 50 years after the event while some people who were alive at the time were still living. He makes no mention of anyone running to Athens after the battle of Marathon. It would have been insignificant, messages were being sent by messengers all the time. Not by fighting soldiers but trained runners for the purpose. What was significant however was that a messenger was sent to Sparta before the battle of Marathon to request help from the Spartans. Sparta was about 250 kms from Athens on a route that would have avoided the belligerent Argos region. Herodotus did write about this stating that Phidippedes, the messenger entrusted with the message arrived the next day. Since 1983 a race has been held in Greece every year over the course that may have been taken 2500 years ago. The time limit is 36 hours. It is called SPARTATHLON.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually the Olympic Games where supposed to make in autumm but the IOC get money from NBC Broadcasting

not to do the Olympics at the autumm because of Play-Offs in autumm in the footbool league in the US.

Now Mr. Bach says Athletes first after the Doha debakel.

In the past for the IOC was NBC Broadcasting first and money first thats why the Olympics must be done in the summer heat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

no city run by rational/honest people would ever bid for the olympics in the first place

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites