Friday, July 24, 2015

2020 Tokyo Olympics Race Walk Course to Change After IAAF Criticism

translated by Brett Larner

Multiple people involved with the situation confirmed on July 23 that the race walk course for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that has been in place since Tokyo's initial bid is to undergo changes.  The original plan involved a start and finish at the Olympic Stadium with a circuit course on Aoyama Street, but IAAF officials deemed that the 1.3 km segment on Gaien Nishi Street connecting the stadium and circuit course makes it "difficult to position referees," forcing a revision of the plans.

In race walking it is illegal for both feet to be in the air at the same time, and the leading leg must remain straight from the time the heel contacts the ground until the leg is in the vertical position.  In the Olympics nine referees are properly placed to determine by visual inspection whether athletes' form constitutes a violation of either rule.

According to an involved party, the new course remains undetermined at this point.  While there is a possibility that the event may be moved completely away from the Olympic Stadium in order to stage it in one of Tokyo's well-known and popular districts, in terms of operational logistics such as athlete warm-up and transportation as well as security issues, a stadium start and finish remains the first choice.  Given these circumstances, the Olympic Games organizing committee and JAAF are examining the options.

No Japanese athlete has won an Olympic race walking gold medal in the event's history, but in March Yusuke Suzuki (Team Fujitsu) broke the 20 km world record, an indication that the sport is progressing.  It is bound to receive a great deal of domestic attention at the Tokyo Olympics, but the question remains where exactly that will happen.

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