Tokyo governor to IOC: Keep Olympic marathon, race walks in Tokyo

AP
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TOKYO (AP) — The IOC has a full-blown fight on its hands trying to move next year’s Olympic marathon from steamy Tokyo to the cooler northern city of Sapporo.

The powerful Olympic body is up against Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who was once viewed as a possible Japanese prime minister candidate and is one of the country’s most astute politicians.

She’s now casting herself as the champion of the 35 million people who live in greater Tokyo, who want their metropolis showcased as runners wind over streets lined by shrines, temples and skyscrapers.

The marathons and race walks are also some of the few events that allow free admission, a precious commodity with Olympic tickets hard to find in Japan.

At the opening Wednesday of three days of meetings with the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo officials, Koike lashed out at the proposed change announced suddenly two weeks ago by the IOC.

“It is my wish for the marathon and race walk to be held in Tokyo,” Koike said, speaking both in English and Japanese.

Sitting at a front table with top IOC officials John Coates and Christophe Dubi — and facing hundreds of sponsors and Olympic officials — Koike said the announcement “came as a tremendous shock.”

“We consider it an unprecedented turn of events for the IOC to make such an abrupt proposal with no consultation or discussion whatsoever with the host city Tokyo,” Koike said.

The IOC said it made the move after seeing runners collapse in extreme heat at marathons at the world track and field championships earlier this month in Doha, Qatar.

IOC President Thomas Bach saw the television scenes and doesn’t want them repeated to billions of Olympic viewers.

“This was a decision that was taken quickly,” Coates acknowledged. “It was a decision that was taken as a consequence of what we saw in Doha.”

At one point Koike looked down the front table at Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director, and reminded him that earlier this year he had lauded Tokyo’s measures to beat the summer heat: running early, providing shade for fans, and installing heat-resistant pavement.

“They were highly evaluated by you Mr. Dubi. Right?” she asked.

He nodded in agreement with Koike.

Koike said in the next several days she wanted a “detailed explanation … that can be understood by the people of Tokyo.”

Coates, a powerful IOC member and lawyer from Australia who oversees frequent inspections of Tokyo’s progress, has repeatedly said the IOC will go ahead with its plans.

He said he had already told Koike this. But he said the IOC, Koike, representatives from the national government, and local organizers would meet Friday in a working group.

But again, he suggested it was a done deal.

“I see this very much as using that political working group to set the framework as to how we implement these changes in a way that is acceptable to everyone,” Coates said.

On Tuesday, political allies of Koike in the municipal legislature told a news conference that moving the marathon would cost at least $310 million. Maybe more.

They also raised questions about who will pay for any changes — or reimburse Tokyo — and did not rule out a lawsuit.

Tokyo city officials acknowledge the city is hot in the summer. But so were Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and Athens in 2004. City officials have offered to start the marathon at 5 a.m., which is at sunrise in the Tokyo summer.

Estimates suggest the temperature would be 81 degrees at 5 a.m., and would be 78 degrees in Sapporo for a 7 a.m. start.

The starting temperature in Doha for the women’s marathon was 91 degrees.

Tokyo’s soaring costs are also a major issue with the Olympics opening on July 24, 2020.

A government audit report last year said Tokyo was spending about $25 billion to organize the Olympics, all of which is public money except for $5.6 billion from a privately financed operating budget.

Tokyo said in its bid in 2013 that the Olympics would cost $7.3 billion.

Toshiro Mori, the head of the organizing committee and a former Japanese prime minister, acknowledge a few days ago that change could be costly.

“Our overall cost has become a humongous amount, so it would cause us pain if the cost is added to our bill,” Mori said. “So I mentioned that to Mr. Coates, and he said he will look into it. We won’t be able to pay if it’s a significant damage to our finances. I have reminded him of that.”

MORE: Tokyo Olympic organizers test artificial snow to combat heat

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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