Tokyo 2020 unveil Olympic marathon course in Sapporo

Odori Park will be the starting and ending point of the course, which features a large and a smaller loop.

By Rory Jiwani

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has unveiled the course which will be used for next year's Olympic marathon events in Sapporo.

The announcement followed discussions with representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), World Athletics and local authorities.

The approved marathon route starts with a large loop of approximately half-marathon length followed by two laps of a second smaller loop of around 10km.

The start and finish will be in Odori Park, a distinctive park made up of 13 football-pitch sized rectangles separated by roads.

Situated in central Sapporo, it is popular with tourists and locals alike due to its beautiful lawns, flower beds and trees.

View of Odori Park from the Sapporo TV Tower

Why has the 2020 Olympic marathon been moved?

Concerns over heat in Tokyo during the Games prompted the IOC to announce plans in October to move the marathon and race walk to the "cooler conditions" of the island of Hokkaido more than 800km north of Tokyo.

Sapporo Odori Park is the start and finish of the Hokkaido Marathon held in late August each year giving local authorities significant experience in organising major events.

Earlier this month, the IOC Executive Board approved the race walk courses which features 1km loops centred on Odori Park for the 20km event, and 2km loops for the 50km race.

IOC Athletes' Commission chair Kirsty Coventry stated at the time, "Athletes' health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns and the decision taken to move the marathon and race walk events to Sapporo shows how seriously we take such concerns."

Now the marathon course has been announced and organisers say there will be a "standing legacy course for any future annual marathon and road events in the city so recreational walkers and runners can follow the footsteps of their heroes".

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said, "The course's opening laps in Sapporo Odori Park will set the Sapporo cityscape as a fitting backdrop for the runners, sharing its charms with fans around the world.

"In addition to discussions with World Athletics and the IOC, which took place throughout the course finalisation process, I thank the City of Sapporo and Hokkaido Prefecture for their invaluable support.

"We will continue to work closely with all parties concerned to ensure the marathons and race walks in Sapporo are a success." - Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto

Map of the Tokyo 2020 Marathon taking place in Sapporo

Sapporo to extend its Olympic history

The marathon adds to Sapporo's rich history as an Olympic venue.

Sapporo played host to the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, the first time the Games had been held outside of Europe or North America.

The city was already in the Tokyo 2020 schedule with the Sapporo Dome, which was built for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, staging 10 preliminary football matches.

The 41,000-capacity stadium recently hosted two games at the Rugby World Cup.

Exterior view of the Sapporo Dome

When is the Olympic marathon?

Competition schedules have been revamped to enable NOC officials and coaches to support athletes in the marathon and race walks.

These events will now take place on four consecutive days with the men's marathon, by tradition, held on the final day of the Games.

Race walk and marathon schedule (all times Japan Standard Time):

6 August / 4:30pm - Men's 20km race walk

7 August / 5:30am - Men's 50km race walk

7 August / 4:30pm - Women's 20km race walk

8 August / 7:00am - Women's marathon

9 August / 7:00am - Men's marathon