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  • Marathon Start Time in IAAF Hands


    (ATR) Tokyo 2020 has recommended a start time between 0530 and 0600 for the Olympic marathon and 20km race walk in Japan, pending final approval from the governing body for athletics.

    Coates smiles during a press conference following the seventh IOC Tokyo CoComm (ATR)
    Yoshiro Mori, Tokyo 2020 President, said organizers believe a final agreement will be determined “by the end of the year". IOC Coordination Commission Chair John Coates said pushback on the proposal is not expected and “just procedural matters” remain for the International Association of Athletics Federations to sign off on the change.

    Tokyo 2020 announced the confirmed revision of start times for rugby sevens and mountain biking because of the heat. Rugby will start at 0900, 1.5 hours earlier than originally planned. Mountain biking will be held from 1500 to 1700 instead of 1400 to 1600.

    A consensus was reached between the IOC, Tokyo 2020, international federations, and broadcasters after an IOC working group recommended the 0530 to 0600 start time. Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto confirmed that broadcasters had pushed for an early morning start time, and that running the race in the dark would “be quite problematic”. Sunrise during that time of the year in Tokyo is before 0500.

    “There isn’t a big barrier to overcome [with the IAAF],” Muto added.

    The change in start times is an effort to avoid the worst part of Tokyo's summer heat. Record temperatures this past summer heightened the worry.

    Coates and Mori offered different viewpoints on the tipping point that brought urgency to make the proposed changes. In July, the IOC Executive Board agreed to start the marathon at 0700 after a proposed 0730 start in the competition schedule.

    “We commissioned and put together an expert group under our scientific direct. They gave us these recommendations. They had consulted at that time with the sports concerned,” Coates said of when changes took place. “We had to consult with TMG to see that it is possible for the transport facilities to operate in time for volunteers and workforce, the motivational factor in this is the health of the athletes and the [IAAF] understands that.”

    Mori said that it was in fact pressure from the Japanese people to the competition schedule which made it necessary for a renewed discussion.

    Mori listens to a question from foreign media at the press conference (ATR)
    “Everybody here with the Japanese media and foreign media asked if we could stage the games under the heat,” Mori said. “That softly nudged us to change it and the determinant factor was the voice of the Japanese people.”

    Weather Complicates Budget

    Around 20 new measures to combat “extreme weather” around the Tokyo 2020 Olympics could increase costs in version three of the Games’ budget.

    These measures include increased shading areas for spectators outside sport venues, water sprays for marathon runners, non-reflective pavement, and more medical resources, organizers said.

    “This was an abnormal period, it was a period when there was an impact on the population at large with this heat and so it was the abnormality that highlighted it," Coates said, adding the precautions to combat the heat "will increase the cost” of staging the Games.

    “They are not going to be free.”

    Both Tokyo 2020 and the IOC have said that in the last year organizers have found cost savings for the Games of $4.3 billion. Venue savings amounted for $2.2 billion, Coates said, with an additional $2.1 billion saved in operating costs by the different levels of government.

    Work still remains to balance the budget, Coates said, despite a record sponsorship drive that has reportedly brought in more than $3 billion in revenue. Tokyo 2020 is anticipating another $100 million in sponsorship revenue and $800 million in ticket sales, but can only be represented as potential figures in the budget.

    Increased expenses to combat Tokyo’s weather could eat into a contingency built into the organizing committee budget, Coates said, but not enough to allow for cost overruns. Should Tokyo 2020 go over budget, the difference would need to be recouped by government money.

    “My confidence is they will achieve a balance budget subject to something massively untoward and then there will be a position where there won’t be a drain on the public purse,” Coates added.

    Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto (ATR)
    Muto said that organizers are working on the premise that the total costs of the Olympics “cannot exceed the level of the version two budget”. The overall Games budget was set at $12.6 billion, with Tokyo 2020’s privately funded budget at $5.6 billion, and government spending on the Games at $7 billion.

    The non-organizing committee budget is responsible for venue construction and other related costs to stage the Games. A number of expenses included in the version three budget were just not known during planning for version two, which Muto said could offset cost saving measures.

    “At the time of version [two] we envisioned certain expenses, but plans weren’t solidified and calculation wasn’t possible,” Muto said.

    “Those clearer numbers will be incorporated into the version [three] budget. There are things that will reduce and there are things that will increase. We don’t know the grand consequences, but we cannot exceed the level of the version [two] budget. That is the working thought we have with the version three budget.”

    Written by Aaron Bauer in Tokyo

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