KYODO, STAFF REPORT
Residents of the capital are divided over whether they think the 2020 Olympic marathon and race-walking events should be held in Sapporo, according to a recent survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
In the survey of around 2,000 residents conducted Tuesday and Wednesday last week, 36 percent supported the International Olympic Committee’s plan to shift the events to Sapporo, while 32 percent were opposed.
But 76 percent viewed the process for changing the venue as “inappropriate,” given that the IOC abruptly announced the plan on Oct. 16 without providing sufficient explanation to the metropolitan government.
The plan to hold the races in Hokkaido came amid increasing concern about the extreme heat expected in Tokyo during the Summer Games.
The metropolitan government said it had received 417 submissions of feedback about the plan via email and telephone from Oct. 17 through Thursday, with about 90 percent of those saying they opposed the change.
The results of the survey were revealed during the metropolitan assembly’s special committee session on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The change of venue will be discussed during a special session of the commission starting Wednesday.
On Friday, John Coates, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, met with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and sought her understanding of the IOC’s plan.
Coates told reporters after his talks with Koike that the IOC Executive Board was “the competent authority to take a decision such as this,” and the decision “has been taken.”
Tokyo is formulating counterproposals, including earlier start times to avoid the heat. But during the meeting, Coates reportedly insisted that holding events before sunrise would be impossible due to visibility concerns for athletes and spectators as well as for medical personnel and the media, who use helicopters during such events.
To accommodate those affected by the decision, Coates said that ticket holders and the parents of athletes will be reimbursed and that the IOC is open to discussing the possibility of organizing athletic programs for underprivileged youth in Tokyo. He also proposed holding a parade in the lead-up to the closing ceremony on Aug. 9 for the medal winners in the marathon and race-walking events, as well as other athletes competing outside of Tokyo — such as those taking part in the sailing competitions in Enoshima and the cycling events in Izu.
“Up until now, the local municipalities and authorities and citizens were very much looking forward to the events and working very hard to prepare for them,” Koike said Friday. “Because of this, when the plan to change was announced, myself, as well as the citizens, could not help but feel it was quite sudden.”