The heat is on: Tokyo 2020 marathon to start earlier

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathon will start between 5:30am and 6am, organizers say after experts raised concerns over the health of competitors and fans during the summer heat.
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The heat is on: Tokyo 2020 marathon to start earlier

International Olympic Committee vice president and chairman of the Coordination Commission for Tokyo 2020 John Coates (left) and Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori attend a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games organizers have formally proposed moving the start time of the marathon races forward to avoid the worst of the Japanese capital's scorching summer heat.

The marathon events were initially scheduled to start at 7am local time but now Games organizers have asked the IAAF, athletics’ governing body, to approve moving the start time to either 5.30am or 6am.

The Tokyo 2020 Games will run from July 24 to August 9.

Temperatures in Tokyo reached a record 41.1 degrees Celsius this year, with the July average reaching more than 30 degrees, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

There were even calls to introduce daylight savings time for the Games but with those plans quashed, an earlier start time is likely to appease athletes and spectators alike worried about the heat.

The times for the rugby and mountain bike events have also been changed after the IOC’s Coordination Commission took advice from a team of experts.

"Based on the proposals of the IOC’s expert group, we are proceeding to recommended earlier starting times for the men’s and women’s marathons and the 20-kilometer race walk,” said Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori in Tokyo on Wednesday.

“As it is necessary to receive approval for such changes from the IAAF, we will work closely with them and aim to make a decision by the end of this year.”

All the morning rugby sessions will now start at 9am, one and a half hours earlier than previously scheduled, with the cross-country cycling push back an hour into the early evening.

“It will continue to be front of mind for us and the organizers and front of mind for the teams that are coming here,” added commission chair John Coates.

“We will do everything possible to ensure they are not competing at risk.”

Tokyo 2020 organizers are due to announce version three of the budget on December 21 and the swathe of heat counter-measures proposed, including increased shade for spectators and a heat-blocking surface to the road, will add to the costs involved.

“There is a list of about 20 precautions they think we ought to take and they are not going to be free,” said Coates.

Despite this, Coates and the Tokyo 2020 organizers are confident that the operating budget will break even.

“There is still someway to go in terms of sponsorships, to balance the operating budget and there is still the ticket revenue to be achieved,” said Coates. “But I would be very confident that it would be a balanced budget, which in effect means the operating costs will not cost the taxpayers anything.

“The Olympic movement, the Games, will have provided all the revenues for the operating costs.”

The costs for the Games’ venues, which are largely all running to schedule, will be absorbed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and are separate to the operating costs.

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