POSTED: October 24th 2012

NEIL WILSON: The marathon road to Olympic success

No race in the world has more applicants than the Tokyo Marathon / Tokyo Marathon
No race in the world has more applicants than the Tokyo Marathon / Tokyo Marathon

NEIL WILSON / Sports Features Communications

October 24 - Many aspects of a city’s bid to host an Olympic Games are important to its chances of success. Financing and infrastructure are key, and the latest fashion accessory required by voting IOC members is legacy, or what a Games will do for a city, a country and the Olympic Movement.

Another box a candidate city must tick is organisational experience. London when it won in 2005 could point not only to hosting the European football championships but probably of more importance its major annual events, Wimbledon, cricket’s Test matches, horse-racing’s Epsom Derby and the London Marathon.

The Marathon is a logistical colossus. A course through a busy city must be prepared literally overnight, roads shut for a day and the whole circus removed as if it had never existed before the working week begins the next day. Not surprisingly, when London won the right to host the 2012 Games, the organisers of the London marathon were asked to take charge of the Olympic road races.

What worked for London can work for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bid. London may be a quarter of a century older than its Asian cousin but voting IOC members can take comfort in their remarkable similarities.

Indeed, the Tokyo marathon is likely to be the first newcomer to the group known as World Marathon Majors of which London, New York, Chicago, Berlin and Boston were founders in 2006.

Discussions about an invitation to Tokyo to join the group have taken place already within it, and a source says Tokyo is believed to fulfill all the criteria required, good organisation, iconic course, strong sponsors and a strong charitable element, hardly surprising when it so closely resembles the New York and London races.

It has overtaken both to one degree. No race in the world has more applications for places. For 2013 only one in ten were successful, with more than 304,000 applying on the first day applications opened. That is almost three times as many as New York and London, and more than 20,000 up on only a year earlier.

Japan has long been a country excited by elite marathon running. Its women won the Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004. But it was something the Japanese used to believe was for professional runners, and not for the likes of the average Seko and Takahashi. Then Tokyo’s two marathons merged in 2007 and a decision was taken to open the new race to anybody who could run the classic distance of 26 miles 385 yards/42.2 kilometres in under seven hours.

The 2013 race, which doubles as Japan’s world championship trials, has the slogan The Day We Unite. It may also be a day which persuades the IOC that it is Tokyo’s turn next. Nothing is more likely to convince them than the passion for the most iconic of Olympic
events that will be on show that day.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Tokyo Marathon · athletics · track and field · Tokyo 2012 · Olympic bidding

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