Column: IOC marathon edict should give pause to other cities

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              FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2019, file photo, athletes compete during the men's marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. Lelisa Desisa, of Ethiopia, won the race. The IOC is seeking to relocate next summer’s Olympic marathon from steamy Tokyo to the cooler northern city of Sapporo after seeing competitors collapse in extreme heat at the world championships in Qatar.  (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
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Tokyo must be having some serious second-thoughts about taking on the Olympic Games.

In addition to being saddled with an enormous tab, the host city has now lost one of the Summer Games’ signature events.

The International Olympic Committee ordered the marathons moved out of Tokyo to avoid the summer heat — a rash, overcautious edict that should give pause to any city considering a future bid for the games.

No matter how much money a city and country spends on this bloated monstrosity — the 2020 bill has climbed to a staggering $25 billion — the IOC left no doubt Friday that it has the final say on pretty much everything.

Therefore, the 26.2-mile Olympic marathon course will wind through the streets of Sapporo.

Not Tokyo.

The IOC didn’t even bother consulting with the organizing committee before making the decision, a pompous, dictatorial move that wouldn’t have happened if these games were being held in a country that has far more sway within the Olympic movement, namely the United States or China.

While Tokyo’s blistering summer heat is an issue, it’s not much different climate-wise than Atlanta (host of the 1996 Summer Games) or Athens (2004) or Beijing (2008), the latter also plagued by thick pollution that added to the athletes’ risk.

But the IOC was terrified of the images it saw at the world track and field championships, held a month ago in the desert emirate of Qatar. Even though both marathons began around midnight, the temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) for the start of the women’s race with stifling humidity, resulting in only 40 of 68 runners being able to finish. Many of those who didn’t collapsed on the course and were carried away on stretchers; others rode wheelchairs to receive medical care.

Ethiopian distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie said it was fortunate that no one died.

“With all the good work that’s gone into preparations, we didn’t want Tokyo being remembered — in the minds of your people and the minds internationally — by some of the scenes we saw in Doha,” said IOC member John Coates, who is overseeing Tokyo’s preparations but is essentially the mouthpiece for his boss, IOC poohbah Thomas Bach.

Tokyo’s leaders, led by city Governor Yuriko Koike, vigorously fought the decision.

But they threw up the white flag Friday, conceding they were powerless to stop the almighty IOC.

“The IOC has the final authority to change,” Koike said, “and we will not obstruct the decision.”

More than a year ago, Tokyo organizers proudly announced a course that would have taken runners past some of the some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks, including the Kaminarimon (“Thunder Gate”), Imperial Palace, Zojoji Temple and Nihonbashi Bridge.

The marathon is one of the few events at an Olympics that allows the host city to show off its best side to the rest of the world. Essentially, it’s a two-hour travelogue winding through the top attractions, punctuated by thousands of cheery locals lining the streets.

Most notably, the 2020 marathons were set to start and finish at the new Olympic Stadium, reviving a longstanding tradition that was abandoned at the last two Summer Games in London and Rio.

“Visualizing running into the stadium, having that moment of silence where you go through a tunnel and then you get in the stadium and people are going nuts, it’s a really cool picture to think about,” said American runner Desiree Linden, who competed in the past two Olympic women’s marathons. “It’s certainly motivating.”

Now, it’s gone.

The marathons, as well as the race-walking events, will be held some 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) north of Tokyo, in the city that hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics.

The decision did not sit well with Canada’s Evan Dunfee, who finished fourth in the men’s 50-kilometer race walk in Rio.

“The IOC has imposed its all-powerful will on everyone involved and it is the athletes who ultimately lose,” he wrote on Twitter. “And I’ve yet to hear a defendable rationale from the IOC.”

Britain’s Tom Bosworth was also upset. He placed sixth in the 20-k race walk at the 2016 Games.

“Truly gutted,” Bosworth tweeted. “An Olympic experience is a lifetime of work, and may only happen once. Years preparing, dreaming, training, just to get close and your event is moved to the other end of the country … for reasons that weren’t a problem a year prior.”

For Tokyo, this is another blow to its original plans for hosting the games. The IOC already persuaded the city to move several events to existing venues outside of the capital in hopes to reducing the enormous price tag, most notably shifting the track cycling and mountain biking to a facility some 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Tokyo.

But that move made sense from a financial standpoint, and the organizers signed off on it.

Not this time. The marathons and race walks were a chance for tens of thousands of locals to get a free, firsthand look at the games — no small consideration given the demand for tickets in Tokyo has been 10 times greater that the supply.

Also, there is plenty of debate over how much of a difference it will even make to hold the marathons and race walks in Sapporo.

Without question, it’s generally cooler in the northern city. For instance, Tokyo’s average temperature on Aug. 9 — the scheduled date of the men’s marathon — ranges from a high of 85 degrees (29 Celsius) to a low of 79 (26 Celsius), according to accuweather.com. By comparison, the historical temperatures for Sapporo on that date span from 77 to 68 degree (25 to 20 Celsius).

Of course, there’s nothing precise about the weather.

This past Aug. 2 — exactly one year before the scheduled date of the women’s Olympic marathon — the temperature climbed to 94 degrees (34 Celsius) in Sapporo, just 1 degree cooler than it was in Tokyo on that same day.

“If it’s not guaranteed to be 10, 15 degrees cooler,” Australian marathoner Sinead Diver said, “I think I prefer to have it in Tokyo.”

Sorry, the IOC has made up its mind.

And no one else gets a say.