Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascot Miraitowa (C) and Paralympic mascot Someity. Image Credit: AFP

Tokyo: The government of Japan on Thursday stressed the need to protect the health of athletes, a day after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced plans to shift some road running events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to the northern city of Sapporo.

The IOC had said on Wednesday that it was planning to transfer the marathon and race walking events to Sapporo, around 800 kilometres north of Tokyo, in order to prevent the extreme heat expected during the Games affecting athletes’ participation in the event.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, when asked about the development in his daily press conference, said the heat was a very important issue and one had to put the “athletes first,” adding that he would continue coordinating with the organisers on the subject.

Suga said the topic would be discussed at a special meeting later this month between the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, Tokyo authorities and the IAAF, among others.

However, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Wednesday that the move was announced “abruptly,” adding that she was surprised by the decision to move one of the most important Olympic events out of the city.