TOKYO: Representatives from the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers are set for a third day of showdown talks on Friday as they look to resolve what has become a very public spat over the hosting of the marathon at next year's Games.
Last month, the IOC stunned many Games organisers by announcing that the marathon, one of the most prestigious events at any Olympics, would be moved to the northern Japanese city of Sapporo to avoid the worst of Tokyo’s summer heat.
The announcement enraged the capital’s governor Yuriko Koike, who said at the beginning of talks on Wednesday that she still wanted the marathon and race walking events to remain in Tokyo.
The IOC delegation, led by Australian John Coates, and Games organisers are being joined in talks by not only the Tokyo Metropolitan Government but also by members of the national government, indicating the efforts being made to reach an amicable solution.
Japan's Asahi newspaper reported the four parties would formally decide on Friday to host the marathon events in Sapporo, while Kyodo News said the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was considering accepting the Sapporo proposal and would make a final decision before the start of the four-party talks.
In Wednesday’s opening remarks, Coates said organisers “owed it to the people of Tokyo” to clarify any plans over the marathon and race walk.
He has also vowed not to leave Tokyo without a consensus decision over the events.
Tokyo temperatures in July and August, when the city will host the Games, regularly exceed 30 degrees Celsius with high humidity adding to the discomfort.
The IOC is determined not to repeat the experience of the athletics world championships in Doha, where the heat and humidity forced many athletes to drop out of the race despite the marathon being held at midnight.
To keep the marathon in Tokyo, Koike has said the capital was ready to make further adjustments, including changing the route and start time, with some media reports saying to as early as 3 a.m.
The IOC has said temperatures in Sapporo, which will also host soccer games, are as much as five to six degrees cooler during the day.
Organisers earlier this year had already moved up the starting times to 6 a.m. for the marathon and 5:30 a.m. for the race walk to avoid the midday sun.
When Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964, they were held in October — an option no longer possible due to international sports schedules.
Next year’s Games are set to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, with the men's marathon to be held on the final day.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Additional reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Stephen Coates and Michael Perry)