Kit McConnell, the International Olympic Committee's sports director, said Thursday he anticipates the marathon and race walking events will remain in Sapporo next year for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which have been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on a conference call, McConnell said he did not think that either the Sapporo venue – a late change to avoid the extreme heat and humidity of Tokyo's summer – or the events' schedule would change.
All events in Sapporo were to take place over the Olympics' last four days, with the women's marathon now on Aug. 7, and the men's race on the same day as the closing ceremony, now set for Aug. 8, 2021.
The IOC made the decision to move the races to the most northern of Japan's four main islands after the world athletics championships in Doha demonstrated the problems of staging endurance events in extreme heat. In November, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike finally bowed to the inevitable and accepted the decision.
Although IOC President Thomas Bach generalized after the postponement was announced that every athlete who has qualified for 2020 remains qualified, McConnell added a detail to that, saying the final decision would be up to each national Olympic committee.
"In all sports, the NOC retains the right to select the individual athlete from anyone who is eligible to fill that place," McConnell said, saying that rule was defined in the Olympic Charter.
"That right of the NOC will remain in place for next year."
He also said that ages for qualifying established by international federations would be discussed and hopefully hammered out in the next few weeks, a statement of interest to men's soccer players for whom the Olympics is primarily an under-23 competition.
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