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Tokyo 2020 will be 'early bird Olympics' to avoid intense heat

The Olympic Aquatics Center is under construction in Tokyo's Koto Ward on July 17, 2018. (Mainichi)

The organizing committee of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 received the green light on July 18 from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland, to move up the starting time of some outdoor events at the games to avoid intense summer heat.

According to the approved schedule, the Tokyo Olympics, which is set to be held for 17 days from July 24 through Aug. 9, will have its male and female marathon events start at 7 a.m., half an hour earlier than originally planned.

The time slot for the men's 50 kilometer race walk, which takes about four hours to complete, will be brought forward by an hour and a half to begin at 6 a.m., making it the earliest-starting event among 339 spanning 33 categories at the Tokyo Olympics.

Men's and women's golf will also begin two hours earlier than planned, at 7 a.m., because the venue, Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, is feared to be one of the hottest Olympic locations during the international athletic gathering.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, in 2017 the average high temperature in Tokyo reached 31.8 degrees Celsius in July and 30.4 C in August. This year, Gifu Prefecture in central Japan has already recorded a high temperature of over 40 degrees Celsius in July.

The first competition of the entire period will be a softball match featuring Japan in Fukushima Prefecture in northern Japan, at the prefectural Azuma ballpark in the city of Fukushima, starting at 10 a.m. on July 22. The prefecture will also host the starting point of the Olympic torch relay, as a symbol of the 2020 Games that is organized in part to promote the reconstruction of areas devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The city of Fukushima will also be the place for the opening baseball game on July 29. Arrangement of the competition, which had been subject to tough negotiations between the Japanese side and an international baseball organization, has now been finalized. Following a two-group round-robin first stage tournament among six participating countries and regions, a knockout stage including consolation games will be held to determine the winner. A total of 16 games will be held.

Events in which Japan is expected to win medals will be spread out over the duration of the 2020 Tokyo Games. Categories such gymnastics, judo and wrestling were originally packed into the first half of the games, but wrestling matches will be held in the second half, between Aug. 2 and 8.

Swimming is the only sports category whose schedule has not been finalized yet because of ongoing talks over setting the final events to prime time slots for TV coverage in the United States.

(Japanese original by Kazuhiro Tahara, Sports News Department)

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