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Tokyo 2020 organising committee considers looped circuit for Sapporo marathon

A logo is displayed on a fence in Tokyo (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Following the decision to relocate the marathon and race walk events of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games from Tokyo to Sapporo, the Games organising committee is now considering a running course that loops around the city, to increase security for the event and reduce costs.

Sapporo, a city on the northern island of Hokkaido, will host the men’s and women’s marathon, men’s and women’s 20km race-walk and men’s 50km race-walk. The decision to relocate these events was made last month by the International Olympic Committee after serious concerns over Tokyo’s sweltering summer heat.

Yominiuri Shimbun reported that the organising committee had studied several options, and a looped circuit would largely reduce the costs required for services such as roadside security and the installation of competition and broadcasting equipment.

World Athletics – the renamed International Association of Athletics Federations- is supportive of the plan, and a decision will be made by early December in consultation with the Olympic Broadcasting Services, the Sapporo city government and the Hokkaido prefecture government, amongst others.

This would not be the first time a looped circuit would be used at an Olympic marathon, with both the 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro having similar courses. The marathon course initially planned for the 2020 Tokyo Games was to start and finish at the new National Stadium in Shinjuku, Tokyo, with no looped segments.

Seiko Hashimoto, the minister-in-charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games, held talks with Hokkaido governor Naomichi Suzuki and Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto on Tuesday, the first time since the relocation of the events to Sapporo had been finanlised, and said: “We have to organize a Sapporo event that makes athletes want to win gold there.”

Akimoto said: “Despite having little time to prepare, we need to cooperate fully to ensure the events are a success.”

The Tokyo Games begins on July 24 and runs till August 9 next year, and the recent venue change has given Sapporo barely nine months to organise schedule and routes, line up security and secure lodging for athletes.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, the venue change is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, and it has been agreed that the Tokyo government will not cover this expense, with how it will be distributed between the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, and the governments of Hokkaido and Sapporo yet to be agreed upon.