Tokyo: Tokyo City officials are in a public feud with the International Olympic Committee over IOC plans - made without consulting the city or local organizers - to move next year’s Tokyo Olympic marathons 800 kilometers (500 miles) north to Sapporo to avoid the capital’s summer heat.
The abrupt decision to shift the marathons and race walks was announced almost two weeks ago by the IOC.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is angry about it. Her allies say no change is needed and have raised questions about who will pay if the move goes through and have not ruled out a lawsuit to recover damages.
Taro Shirato and Hiroshi Yamada, members of Koike’s political party in the metropolitan legislature, told a news conference Tuesday that moving the marathon would cost at least $34 billion yen, about $310 million.
The IOC said it’s making the change, thinking first of athletes’ safety from Tokyo’s blistering summer heat.
Koike’s allies offered a different take. Koike is one of Japan’s most influential politicians and just a few years ago was viewed as a potential candidate for prime minister. And she’s miffed about not being consulted.
“Although they (IOC) talk about so-called athletes first, this can only be perceived as IOC first,” Shirato said through an interpreter.
“You get the sense that no considerations have been made for the athletes,” Shirato added, “or the spectators who had already bought their tickets and who were looking forward to these events or the potential spectators who will be cheering on the streets, and also to the people involved in the operation.”
The IOC is unlikely to to budge as it has inspectors in Tokyo this week looking at preparations with the Olympics opening in just under nine months on July 24.
IOC member John Coates heads the team and is an ally to President Thomas Bach. He has said repeatedly the IOC does not intend to change its plans, and has told that to Koike.
The IOC fears worldwide television audiences might see a repeat of the recent world track and field 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.
Tokyo’s soaring costs are also a major issue.
A government audit report last year said Tokyo was spending about $25 billion to organize the Olympics, all of which is public money except for $5.6 billion from a privately financed operating budget. Tokyo said in its bid in 2013 that the Olympic would cost $7.3 billion.
Yamada was asked who would pay for the increased costs.