Tokyo 2020 unveils athlete- and NBC-friendly schedule
The competition schedule for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was formally announced today, with games organisers' taking into account the considerations of NBC, the rights-holder in USA, and concerns over the searing summer temperatures in the Japanese capital.
In a move to avoid the worst of the heat, the majority of Olympic marathons and race walks will start at 6am local time, with the men’s 50km race walk beginning earlier at 5:30am.
The scheduling decisions were taken "after discussions with medical teams and stakeholders and considering the well-being of athletes", Koji Murofushi, the Tokyo 2020 sports director, told reporters.
Last year, John Coates, chair of the International Olympic Committee’s co-ordination commission for the games, said that an Olympic expert medical and scientific committee recommended that the marathons begin between 5.30am and 6am.
Coates said that the issue of high temperatures “will continue to be front of mind for us, and for the organisers, and front of mind for the teams that are coming here. We will do everything to ensure that they are not competing at risk or watching at risk.”
The Tokyo 2020 organising committee said: “Tokyo 2020 took a holistic approach when compiling the schedule, taking into account the technical rules and regulations of the various international federations, gender balance, athletes’ experience and well-being, the popularity of individual sports in Japan, global TV audiences and operational considerations.”
To appease NBC - there is a 13-hour time difference between Tokyo and the US east coast - the finals of nine of the 43 track and field events, including the men's 110-metre hurdles, will take place in sessions that start in the morning. The final of the men's 100-metre race is scheduled for the evening of 2 August.
The gold medal matches of basketball and beach volleyball will also take place in the morning as will the swimming finals, which had already been announced by organisers.
NBC is the IOC’s largest single paymaster, handing over $4.38 billion for the period from 2014 to 2020. Since then, it has agreed a further $7.75-billion deal for the rights to all Olympic Games between 2022 and 2032.
In other schedule changes, Tokyo 2020 has also confirmed morning rugby sevens matches will now start at 9am, 90 minutes earlier than first planned, while mountain biking events have been shifted to an hour later, starting at 3pm, and triathlon events will begin from 7.30am in further moves to reflect concerns about the heat.
Temperatures peaked at above 40 degrees Celsius in a heatwave that killed at least 138 people in Japan last summer, but Yoshiro Mori, president of Tokyo 2020, called the temperatures “abnormal,” while admitting that adjustments had to be made to reflect public opinion and medical advice.
A move to shift the marathons to the evening, instead of the early morning, was resisted by broadcasters who said that televising the races after sunset would be “problematic,” according to Toshiro Muto, chief executive of Tokyo 2020.
Muto also said the possibility of extreme weather conditions was a "major issue" for the Games.
The government had considered moving the clocks forward by two hours between June and August in 2019 and 2020 only, to enable sports events to take place during the cooler early morning hours at the games.
In 1964, when Japan last hosted the summer Olympics, the competition was staged in October to avoid the blistering summer conditions.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will take place from 24 July to 9 August, featuring a record 33 sports and 339 events.