Marathons to start at dawn as Tokyo 2020 responds to IOC heat concerns
Tokyo 2020, the organising committee for the Olympic Games in that year, has bowed to concerns about searing summer temperatures in the Japanese capital and agreed that the Olympic marathons and race walks should begin at dawn to avoid the worst of the heat.
John Coates, chair of the International Olympic Committee’s co-ordination commission for the games, said that an Olympic expert medical and scientific committee has recommended that the marathon begins between 5.30am and 6am. However, the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s world governing body, must still approve the changes.
Coates said that the issue of high temperatures “will continue to be front of mind for us, and for the organisers, and front of mind for the teams that are coming here. We will do everything to ensure that they are not competing at risk or watching at risk.”
In other schedule changes, morning rugby sevens matches will now start at 9am, 90 minutes earlier than first planned, while mountain biking events have been shifted to an hour later, starting at 3pm., in further moves to reflect concerns about the heat, according to Yoshiro Mori, president of Tokyo 2020.
Temperatures peaked at above 40 degrees Celsius in a heatwave that killed at least 138 people in Japan this summer, but Mori called the temperatures “abnormal,” while admitting that adjustments had to be made to reflect public opinion and medical advice.
A move to shift the marathons to the evening, instead of the early morning, was resisted by broadcasters who said that televising the races after sunset would be “problematic,” according to Toshiro Muto, chief executive of Tokyo 2020.
Last month, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party rejected a plan to introduce daylight saving time for the games, in a bid to address the problem.
The government had considered moving the clocks forward by two hours between June and August in 2019 and 2020 only, to enable sports events to take place during the cooler early morning hours at the games.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe had ordered a feasibility study to be conducted, but a bill will not now be put before the Diet, Japan’s parliament, because of difficulties in renovating traffic light systems and adjusting the arrival and departure times of international flights in time.
Tokyo 2020 had already obtained approval from the IOC to start the men’s and women’s marathons at 7am, half an hour earlier than originally planned.