The marathon and long-distance walking events at next year’s Olympics have been moved from Tokyo to Sapporo to avoid a repeat of the recent World Championships in Doha where athletes toiled in searing heat and humidity.
Sapporo, which is nearly 500 miles north of the Japanese capital, is expected to have “significantly lower temperatures” and will now host the men’s and women’s marathons and race-walking events at the Games.
The region is likely to be “five to six degrees centigrade cooler during the day than in Tokyo,” said the International Olympic Committee in a statement Wednesday.
Games organizers have introduced a number of measures to protect athletes from the heat, including scheduling long-distance track events in the evening, ensuring all rugby games finish before 12 p.m. local time, and delaying the start of the mountain bike event to 3 p.m.
At the recent World Championships, marathon runners struggled with 32-degree heat and humidity levels above 70 percent, even after start times had been moved to midnight.
In the women’s event, 28 of the 68 runners that started failed to finish, with the eventual winner, Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, clocking 2:32:43 – the slowest winning time ever at a world championships marathon by more than two minutes.
Organizers had also upped safety provisions in Doha, increasing the number of medical staff and bringing in ice baths.
Last weekend was a landmark moment for both the men’s and women’s marathons as Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to run under two hours, while Brigid Kosgei knocked more than a minute off the women’s world record at the Chicago Marathon.
Kipchoge, whose effort wasn’t ratified by the IAAF so doesn’t count as an official record, ran 1:59:40 in Vienna, Austria, as part of the Ineos 1:59 Challenge. He will look to defend his Olympic marathon title from Rio at Tokyo next year.
Kosgei clocked a time of 2:14:04 in Chicago, a minute and 21 seconds faster than Paula Radcliffe’s record set in 2003.