10/17 03:24 CDT Tale of 2 Cities: Sapporo likes race move; Tokyo not much
Tale of 2 Cities: Sapporo likes race move; Tokyo not much
By STEPHEN WADE
AP Sports Writer
TOKYO (AP) --- Sapporo officials are thrilled with a proposal to move next
year's Tokyo Olympic marathons to the northern Japanese city to avoid the
summer heat in the city.
That was not the case in Tokyo, where the reaction to the move seemed to catch
city and organizing committee officials by surprise.
"We take this as an honor," Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said.
Sapporo, which hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, has expressed interest in
bidding for the 2030 Winter Games, and this could be a first step.
"I think this could pave the way for us," the mayor said.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike was not overjoyed on Thursday.
"We are very surprised to learn of this sudden change of direction," she said,
noting the effort that municipal governments had made to organize the race.
Koike, however, sided with the International Olympic Committee's reasoning ---
that of athlete safety and avoiding Tokyo's blistering summer heat.
"Of course, the athletes-first approach is extremely important," she said.
The IOC released the proposal on Wednesday to move the marathons and race
walking to Sapporo. The change was announced quickly, apparently with scant
consulting with local organizers or government officials.
The trigger was probably the recent world track championships in Doha, Qatar,
where 28 of 68 starters failed to finish the women's marathon and 18 of 73 men
failed to complete the course. The races were run at midnight in 38 degree C
(100 degree F) heat.
Ethiopian distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie said athletes "could have
died" in the women's race.
The marathons in Tokyo were to start at 6 a.m. to ease the heat effect on
runners. The men's 50-kilometer race walk final was slated for a 5:30 a.m.
The IOC said a final decision would be made after games inspectors visit Tokyo
for a meeting on Oct. 30-Nov. 1.
Forecast temperatures in Sapporo are "five to six degrees centigrade (about 10
degrees F) cooler during the day than in Tokyo," the IOC said.
Koike said she wants the IOC to explain "to all of the games stakeholders,
including the citizens of Tokyo."
A report released last year by the national government's Board of Audit said
Japan is likely to spend $25 billion overall to prepare for the games. This is
public money, except for the $5.6 billion in the privately funded operating
Organizers dispute the figure and say it's about $12 billion, though what are
Olympic costs --- and what are not --- is subject to heated debate.
Tokyo projected total costs of about $7.5 billion in its winning bid for the
games in 2013.
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