2020 Tokyo Olympics organizing committee deputy secretary general Toshiro Muto met with Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and Hokkaido governor Naomichi Suzuki in Sapporo on Nov. 8. Just one day after organizing committee head Yoshiro Mori had said that the men's marathon would be moved from the final date of the Olympics, Muto indicated that the committee would be reexamining that idea. Faced by the need to have a marathon course ready for approval by the IOC's board of directors at its Dec. 2-4 meeting, Muto visited the three candidate locations for the course's start and finish point, Odori Park, Sapporo Dome and Maruyama Park.
In a reversal of Mori's remarks the previous day about the need to change the date of the Olympic men's marathon, Muto was forced to make a correction. At 9:00 a.m., Muto met first with Mayor Akimoto and then Governor Suzuki. Following the meetings, in response to a question from a reporter Muto commented on the situation, saying, "I apologize for any confusion caused by the slight difference between what was said yesterday and what is being said today. I have informed the mayor and the governor."
Mori's comments about the need to move the men's marathon centered around the logistical difficulties presented by post-race anti-doping testing. Anti-doping facilities will only be in Tokyo, so the time needed to perform a large number of anti-doping tests back in Tokyo following a race in Sapporo would make it impossible to complete testing in time for the award ceremony to happen during the Olympics' closing ceremonies.
However, Muto said that he had received a phone call from the IOC on the night of Nov. 7 strongly pressuring him not to change the men's marathon date. He said that the IOC told him, "The men's marathon has historically been held on the final day. You need to put a little more thought into how to make it happen even with anti-doping testing." Muto commented, "If the people responsible for testing can understand the need for some ingenuity then it may still be possible to hold the marathon on the last day."
With the marathon and race walking courses set to be approved by the IOC Board of Directors on Dec. 2-4 there is almost no time left to actually come up with the courses. After his meetings with the mayor and governor, Muto spent two hours visiting all three potential marathon start and finish locations by car. "All three are wonderful venues, but they all have their demerits," he said of his impressions.
Maruyama Park is fully equipped with a track and spectator seating and was the site of the Sapporo International Half Marathon's start and finish. But, said Muto, "It is too hilly to be suitable for the race walks. A race walk venue separate from the marathon venue will increase setup and operating costs." With regard to Odori Park he commented that "coordination with events held simultaneously" would be an issue, but that it had the advantage of already being used to stage the Hokkaido Marathon every year and thus would not require major investment in renovation.
With less than nine months to go in which to prepare Muto stressed that the keywords for the operation would be "simplification" and "efficiency." Seeming to give a tip of the hat to Odori Park as the leading candidate, he said, "All future discussions must be from the perspective of these keywords."
translated by Brett Larner