It now appears almost certain that the marathon and race walking events at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will be moved from Tokyo to Sapporo to avert the intense summer heat in the nation's capital. The International Olympic Committee proposed the change in venue citing concern over possible health risks to athletes, spectators, race officials and others involved, noting that daytime temperatures during that season are generally 5 to 6 degrees lower in Sapporo than in Tokyo. The IOC is reported to have already reached an agreement with the organizing committee of the Tokyo Games, although discussions with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the city of Sapporo are still pending.

It is unusual to change the venues of major Olympic events just 10 months before they are held. The process that led to the IOC's decision, which came out of the blue for many, must be scrutinized, while the move to Sapporo will entail a variety of issues that need to be sorted out, including who will bear the additional cost. It may come as a shock to the athletes who had prepared and competed for the events that were to be held in Tokyo, but it is a decision that places priority on protecting their health. Once the decision is finalized, preparations must move forward so that it will have an overall positive effect on the 2020 Olympics.

Concern has long been raised over holding the Olympics in the middle of Tokyo's hot and humid summer, particularly the outdoor endurance events. That concern intensified in the past few years as heat waves swept through the country, leaving large numbers of people dead or suffering from heat-related illnesses. Steps have been taken to address the concern. The marathons — scheduled for Aug. 2 for the women's race and Aug. 9 for the men's event — were to start at 6 a.m., 90 minutes earlier than initially planned, to avert the onslaught of the daytime heat. The streets to be used as the race course have been paved with a special coating that reduces the heat reflecting from the road surface.