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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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Tokyo Olympic ‘bicycle helmet’ stadium scrapped

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The planned Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium must be revised after its predicted cost had almost doubled to more than $2 billion, a reported record for a sports stadium.

“We are scrapping our plans for the stadium, and starting from zero,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, according to Reuters.

The planned stadium had been criticized for its cost and its design — like a bicycle helmet — since shortly after Tokyo beat Madrid and Istanbul in an International Olympic Committee vote to host the 2020 Olympics on Sept. 7, 2013.

Projected costs had at one point been up to a reported $3 billion, though it had later been planned to be cut in size by 25 percent before it was scrapped altogether.

The most expensive sports stadium in history is the New York Giants and New York Jets’ MetLife Stadium, which cost $1.6 billion, according to The Associated Press.

“We take note of the decision by Prime Minister Abe to review the design plan and to look for a feasible solution that will offer a state of the art stadium with top level conditions for athletes and spectators,” IOC vice president John Coates said in a statement, according to the AP. “We understand that the review of the stadium will not affect its delivery for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we will work with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to ensure that what is needed for the games is delivered in the revised plan.”

A competition for a new stadium design would be held within the next six months with plans to finish the stadium by spring 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited Japan’s sports minister.

The new stadium would then not be ready for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Baseball, softball among finalist sports to be added for Tokyo 2020