Olympics

Tokyo seeks early marathon starts

Kyodo

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games hopes to move up the start times of the 2020 marathons by one hour to 6 a.m. to avoid the extreme summer heat, sources said Wednesday.

In July, the International Olympic Committee approved the organizers’ plan to set the marathon start time at 7 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than it was initially slated when Tokyo launched its bid to host the event.

But after suffering a record heatwave in 2018, with temperatures reaching 41.1 C in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, near the Japanese capital, concerns have grown that similar conditions in 2020 could pose health risks to athletes, spectators and workers.

Organizers have acknowledged the need for further countermeasures against the heat.

“We’d like to officially propose an earlier start to the IOC and IFs (International Sports Federations),” said Toshiaki Endo, vice president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party mulled the adoption of daylight saving time for a limited period but abandoned the idea, citing technological and logistical difficulties involved in making such a change in less than two years.

In late October, health officials in Japan called for the races to start at 5:30 a.m. to minimize the risk of heatstroke. The Japan Medical Association and the Tokyo Medical Association submitted proposals to Tokyo 2020 organizers warning them of possible heat-related deaths.

Marathon races started at 6 a.m. at the Asian Games held in Jakarta in August. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, which also faced extreme heat as well as concerns over air pollution, the marathons began at 7:30 a.m.

The marathon for the Tokyo Olympics will be held on Aug. 2 for women and Aug. 9, the day of closing ceremonies, for men.

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