The men's marathon at next year's Olympics is set to be rescheduled so it will no longer be the last athletics event of the Games after it was controversially relocated from Tokyo to Sapporo, it was revealed today.
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori warned it would not be possible logistically to hold an event 800 kilometres away from the Japanese capital just a few hours before the Games are to end.
"It's impossible as there is the Closing Ceremony," Mori said during a meeting today with Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki to discuss moving the marathon and race walks to the city.
"The schedule will change greatly."
One option could be to hold the men and women's marathons on the same day.
The women's race is currently scheduled for August 2.
The late decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to move the marathon and race walk events has provoked widespread criticism in Japan, led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
The Japan Association of Athletics Federations (JAAF) are the latest group to hit out at the plan.
"It's extremely regrettable that [the venues] have been changed at this time," Kazunori Asaba, a senior executive with the JAAF and head of its Training Committee, told Japanese agency Kyodo News.
"It's like the athletes who had been training for many years to climb Everest were told just nine months before they would go to a different mountain."
Former elite marathon runner Toshihiko Seko, who had been part of the joint Tokyo 2020-JAAF Committee coordinating the course to be used next year, claimed the decision to move the events was not done to help the athletes.
"That's not an 'athlete first [plan],'" Seko, winner of the Boston Marathon in 1981 and 1987 and London Marathon in 1986, told Kyodo News.
"We hear that [the temperature] was about 34, 35 degrees when [Mizuki] Noguchi won gold at the Athens Olympics [in 2004].
"And there have been many other cases that [Olympics] were held in the heat."
Having been forced to concede that the marathons will be moved from Tokyo, Seko is now campaigning for the men's race to retain its traditional position as the last event on the athletics programme.
"Hopefully, [the men's race] will be hosted on the final day, then we'll have the podium ceremony before the Closing Ceremony," Seko, who represented Japan in the marathon at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in Los Angeles and Seoul, said.
"That's what I think is ideal."
A working group is being formed by the IOC, including representatives from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to coordinate the arrangements for the Olympic marathon and race walks after they were moved from Tokyo to Sapporo.
The group's most important task will be to confirm the courses they plan to use.
It has been widely assumed that the marathon course will be based on the annual Hokkaido Marathon.
But Tadasu Kawano, the director of long distance and marathon at JAAF, has warned the IAAF may seek a different course.
"It's a personal impression," Kawano told Kyodo News,
"But looking at the trend of the IAAF in recent years, I think there is a higher possibility they would host the races in a circular course."
Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto today urged Tokyo 2020 to finalise the arrangements quickly.
"We hope the Organising Committee decides the schedule and course soon, and gives attention to reducing the impact on the lives of our citizens as they make arrangements," Akimoto told Kyodo News.
Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto is due to visit Sapporo tomorrow to discuss arrangements.
Mori promised that the cost of hosting the events will not have not have to be paid by Sapporo.
"The marathon is the showpiece of the Games," Mori told Governor Suzuki during their meeting.
"I'd like to work together.
"I don't want the expenses to be a burden on Hokkaido."