Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto (Mainichi)

Sapporo mayor welcomes IOC plan to move marathon venue from Tokyo

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto on Thursday welcomed the International Olympic Committee's plan to move the 2020 Tokyo Games marathon and race walking events to his city on Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido.
"We are surprised since it happened suddenly but feel honored," Akimoto told a press conference a day after the IOC's abrupt announcement, which reflected worries about the heat in Tokyo during the Summer Games.

But the mayor of the host city of the 1972 Winter Olympics said at the same time that the schedule is "tight" so that it needs to hold talks with the IOC.

Akimoto also said the city government has yet to be notified by the IOC of its plan.

"I first learned about it last night through inquiries from media organizations," he said.

On Thursday, Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki released a statement saying the prefecture would "take all possible measures for the success (of the marathon and walking events)."

The IOC said Wednesday the proposal, if realized, would mean the men's and women's athletic road events could be held with "significantly lower temperatures," about 5 C to 6 C cooler than in Tokyo.

"Athletes' health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns," IOC President Thomas Bach said. "The Olympic Games are the platform where athletes can give 'once-in-a-lifetime' performances, and these measures ensure they have the conditions to give their best."