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Sarcastic Koike says: Let's hold Olympic marathon on Russian-held islands

Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike, irked by the International Olympic Committee's plan to move the 2020 Summer Games marathon and race walking events to Sapporo, quipped Thursday they should be held somewhere on Russia-held, Japan-claimed islands off Hokkaido if cooler weather conditions are needed.
The governor's sarcastic remarks came a day after the IOC unexpectedly proposed changing the venue of the road events to the city on Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido, amid growing concerns about the expected extreme heat in Tokyo during the games.
"If a cool place is necessary, I want to hear calls from Rengo such as why not holding them on the Northern Territories?" Koike said when she was with members of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, known as Rengo, according to an official.
A territorial dispute over the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, has long prevented the signing of a postwar peace treaty between the two countries.
"It came out of the blue," Koike is also quoted by the official as saying at the gathering of the Tokyo branch of the nation's largest labor organization, in an apparent expression of displeasure over the IOC's plan.
Noting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, she said it could be possible to request that a "festival of peace" be organized on the disputed islands.
The IOC's proposal will be discussed when its Coordination Commission holds a meeting in Tokyo from Oct 30 to Nov 1.
But both IOC President Thomas Bach and Mori already suggested Thursday that the change of the venue is unavoidable.
"It was pretty abrupt. Each municipality of the marathon course has been working hard so far," Koike said when she met the press. "I want to think about what would be the best (approach)."
Koike said she is aware that athlete-first arrangements are essential but that the matter should be addressed in a larger context of how to achieve the success of the 2020 Tokyo Games.


© KYODO
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