Olympics

2020 Olympic organizers unveil course for Sapporo marathons

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The course for the men’s and women’s marathon competitions in Sapporo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been set, the organizers announced on Thursday.

Toshiro Muto, CEO of the host committee, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday that the International Olympic Committee, World Athletics and Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympics and Paralympics had agreed on it that morning.

The decision was made after officials of the IOC and World Athletics, the sport’s global governing body (formerly known as the International Association of Athletics Federations or the IAAF), had held an inspection in Sapporo last Saturday.

The races will start and finish at Sapporo Odori Park, which is located in the center of Sapporo. The course consists of an approximately 20-km loop and the majority of it is used for the Hokkaido Marathon, which is held every August. After the athletes go around it once, they will then circle a route of roughly 10 km, using the northern part of the 20-km loop.

The competitors will run by or even through some of the city’s scenic sites, such as the nationally famous Susukino entertainment district, Nakajima Park, the Hokkaido University campus and former Hokkaido Government Office Building, which is nicknamed “Red Brick Office.”

The organizing committee said that it would hold an official measurement of the course and more details of the course would be revealed after it.

Since the IOC decided to move the marathon and race walk competitions from Tokyo to the capital of Hokkaido to avoid the intense summer heat of the nation’s capital during the July 24-Aug. 9 games in late October, the aforementioned governing bodies had discussed the course.

The focal point was the last half of the races. World Athletics had claimed three laps of a 7-km loop. But according to the organizing committee, many main roads of the city would have to be occupied with the World Athletics idea and it would be “too much of a burden for the local transportations,” whereas it would not be an issue with the 10-km, two-lap plan as the route is a part of the 20-km loop.

World Athletics had originally proposed six laps for a 7-km loop, while the host committee had offered a plan of two laps for a 20-km route to cover the 42.195 km race. Muto said that the committee “made a concession” in the second half of the course.

Yasuo Mori, deputy executive director of the organizing committee, admitted that it is not easy to set up a marathon course. But he added that the marathon competitions at the Tokyo Olympics would be held in a “good, compact course” going through some picturesque sites in the northern city.

The men’s marathon will begin at 7 a.m. on the final day of the Games while the women’s race will start at the same time a day earlier.

Sylvia Barlag, a former Olympian in the women’s high jump who now serves as the technical director of World Athletics, said in a statement that developing Olympic marathon and race walk competitions “is always an exciting challenge to achieve a balance of athlete welfare, showcasing the city, ensuring technical and broadcast requirements are met and providing a great backdrop for spectators to enjoy the Olympic experience.”

“We have achieved this in Sapporo,” Barlag said. “And want to thank all the stakeholders and, in particular, our athletes, who have come together in a short space of time to help create these courses. We now look forward to the world’s greatest marathon runners and race walkers battling for Olympic gold on the streets of Sapporo.”

Toshiko Seko, a former Olympics marathoner who is the Japan Association of Athletics Federations’ marathon development leader, said in a statement that the participating runners will now be able to genuinely prepare for the 2020 Games.

“Now we officially have the course, in which the first half of it will be one lap and two laps for the second half, it will give the spectators on the roadside more opportunities to cheer,” Seko said. “And the athletes are able to run constantly receiving cheers and I am sure they will be encouraged. I think we have got a great course.”

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