Amid concern about the expected searing heat in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) wants to move next year’s Olympic marathons 800km north to find cooler and safer race conditions.
The committee on Wednesday detailed a new plan to stage the marathons and race walking events in Sapporo, the host city of the 1972 Winter Olympics, which “will mean significantly lower temperatures for the athletes.”
The proposal came weeks after marathons were run in 38°C weather at about midnight at the World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Forecast temperatures in Sapporo are “five to six degrees centigrade cooler during the day than in Tokyo,” the IOC said.
“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,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a statement.
Still, one Olympic medal contender affected by the plan questioned if athletes were consulted.
“I’m assuming this means you’ll be paying for my family and friends flights and accommodations who have already booked for Tokyo?” Canada’s Evan Dunfee, who took worlds bronze in the 50km walk, wrote in a Twitter post tagged to the IOC and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
“This breaks my heart and is poised to ruin my Olympic experience. Was there ANY consultation with athletes over this?” Dunfee wrote.
An Olympic panel has been consulting with sports governing bodies while assessing heat and weather issues for the Tokyo Games from July 24 to Aug. 9 next year.
“The IOC working group identified the marathon and race walk as the events that would put particular heat stress on the athletes,” the committee said.
The marathons were already scheduled to start at 6am in Tokyo to ease the heat effect on runners. The men’s 50km race walk final was scheduled for a 5:30am start.
“Giving athletes the best platform for their performances within the environment they are in is central to all major events,” IAAF president Sebastian Coe said in the IOC statement.
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