Heat and humidity in the capital judged risks to athletes’ safety and performance, so another Japanese city with an Olympic past will play host.

When the Tokyo Olympics open next year, it’ll be a chance to see the world’s greatest athletes compete, excel, and triumph in Japan’s capital. Oh, and also sweat profusely.

The Games’ opening ceremony will take place on July 24, and the closing ceremony on August 9. Average daytime highs for the months are 29.2 and 30.8 degrees Celsius (84.6 and 87.4 degrees Fahrenheit), and coupled with the high humidity that stifles most of Japan during the summer months, you’re likely to be moist with sweat just standing still in Tokyo during that time of year.

Because of that, the safety and performance of athletes competing in the 2020 Olympics’ marathon has been a concern since the start of planning. Initially, organizers for the Tokyo Olympics planned to schedule the start of the race for 7:30 a.m., before the blazing sun gets too high in the sky. That was later walked back to 7 o’clock, and then 6, and now the International Olympic Committee has decided that instead of moving the start time, they’re just going to move the start line to another part of Japan entirely, one about 900 kilometers (560 miles) away. On Wednesday, the IOC announced that it is now planning to shift the venue for the 2020 men’s and women’s marathons from downtown Tokyo to Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture and host city for the 1972 Winter Olympics.

▼ Sapporo

While Sapporo is also a developed, urban city, Hokkaido’s position at the extreme north of Japan means it’s one of the only parts of the country where temperate conditions, and also low humidity, are the norm in the summer. In making its decision, the IOC cited statistics showing that summertime temperatures in Sapporo are typically five to six degrees Celsius cooler than in Tokyo. “Athletes’ health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns,” explained IOC President Thomas Bach, adding that “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.”

In addition to the marathons, the 2020 Olympics’ racewalking events, which were going to take place within Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Garden, will also be relocated to Sapporo.

While Tokyoite sports fans are saddened by the shift, the 2020 Games, despite being billed as the “Tokyo Olympics,” are actually sort of a team effort by a number of parts of Japan. Sapporo was already scheduled to serve as a venue for soccer preliminary matches, and all three of Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama, are hosting events, such as sailing, fencing, and basketball.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/Asahi Shimbun Digital via Otakomu, Olympic.org
Top image: Olympic.org
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