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Olympics: Tokyo regional party appeals to overseas media over Sapporo move

  • October 29, 2019
  • , Kyodo News , 5:21 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — A Tokyo regional party against the International Olympic Committee’s decision to move the 2020 Olympic marathon and race walking events to Sapporo made an appeal on Tuesday to overseas media at an urgent press conference held in Tokyo.


Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Hiroshi Yamada and Taro Shirato of the Tomin First no Kai party in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly argued that, based on the assessments by the party’s team, staging the events before sunrise could counter any heat worries of the IOC.


They also expressed doubt that Sapporo’s preparations are sufficiently in place to host the events with fewer than 300 days to go before the Summer Games. The party, which advocates open government to citizens, says it has surveyed athletes, coaches and Tokyo residents to reach its conclusion.


“We have assessed the countermeasures to cope with the heat up until now, so why this sudden change?” asked Shirato, saying the IOC’s decision lacked transparency.


In a meeting last Friday, John Coates, chairman of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games, sought Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s understanding but insisted there is no chance of holding the events in the capital, and that the IOC is “the competent authority to take a decision such as this.”


Coates also dismissed outright the prospect of moving the races back to 5 a.m. or earlier, as the Tokyo metropolitan government is reportedly proposing, because of visibility and logistic concerns.


Tomin First no Kai, the largest party in the Tokyo assembly and known as the party of Koike, who acts as its special advisor, estimates it will lose some 30 billion yen ($275 million) due to test events it has held and the cost of paving the marathon course with a heat-resistant surface.


Without Tomin First no Kai’s support, it argues, the Tokyo assembly cannot pass the supplementary budget required to move the venue to Sapporo.


The IOC has suggested expenditure should be covered by reserves in the budget of the 2020 Summer Games organizer and the metropolitan government, while suggesting the IOC may address the issue if there is a shortage of financial resources.


“There wasn’t enough consideration toward people who won tickets in the lottery and those who wanted to watch these events at roadside. Certainly this is putting the IOC first,” Shirato said.


On the same day, members of Tokyo’s Taito Ward assembly, where the marathon course runs past famous tourist destinations such as Asakusa and the Kaminarimon gate, met with Koike at the Tokyo metropolitan government office and submitted a petition requesting the events be held in the capital.


“We have been working on laying the heat-resistant surface in front of Kaminarimon. Let us hold the marathon in Tokyo,” said one ward assembly member.

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