Tokyo, Japan – As Japan prepares to carry the long-delayed Olympics on Friday, it’s not solely the coronavirus pandemic that’s inflicting concern.
There are additionally worries in regards to the potential risk to the well being of athletes and employees from the climate – and the intense warmth and humidity of a Tokyo summer time.
Ever since 2013 when Tokyo won its bid to host the Olympics, there was concern in regards to the choice to carry the occasion in late July and early August when temperatures often attain a excessive of about 35 levels Celsius (95 levels Fahrenheit) and humidity ranges between 70 and 80 %, making it really feel even hotter.
Local weather change has solely been making the state of affairs extra uncomfortable.
Makoto Yokohari, professor of surroundings and concrete planning on the College of Tokyo, tells Al Jazeera that in keeping with his analysis, the Tokyo Video games are set to be the “worst case” for an Olympic host metropolis since at the least 1986.
He explains that whereas different host cities reached temperatures which might be much like these of Tokyo, all of them had summer time climates that have been scorching and dry, reasonably than scorching and humid.
“In the case of the chance of heatstroke,” he defined, “it’s a mixture between the temperature and the humidity.”
Worse, the standard signs of heatstroke are additionally fairly tough to differentiate from these of COVID-19.
“If there are a variety of people that have heatstroke, I’m very involved how they may be handled, and I don’t suppose now we have the capability to deal with a giant variety of these individuals,” he mentioned.
Lately, Japan has been experiencing a few of its hottest climate in fashionable historical past, accompanied by extra frequent and intense rainfall and flooding occasions.
In 2018, at the least 80 people died throughout a heatwave in Tokyo, and on July 23 – the identical date as opening ceremony for the Tokyo Video games – the temperature soared to 41.1C (106F) in Kumagaya, a part of the Kanto plain that features the capital.
It was an all-time report for Japan, though different current summers have additionally come shut.
The torrid temperatures of July and August additionally are inclined to see lots of of deaths and tens of hundreds of hospitalisations that authorities have attributed to heatstroke.
The choice by the Olympic organisers to carry the video games without spectators as a result of pandemic might have disenchanted each worldwide and native sports activities followers, nevertheless it did ease fears that aged Japanese and others may succumb to the warmth on the venues.
The most recent climate forecasts counsel that the Olympic interval will certainly be scorching and humid, though there could also be a interval subsequent week when rain helps carry the every day highs down by just a few levels.
‘Nearly secure’ to ‘hazard’
Organisers have taken some steps to cut back the chance to athletes, Olympic employees, and the media from the warmth, or, worse, an premature heatwave.
In late 2019, the Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC), regardless of sturdy objections from Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, unexpectedly modified the venue of the Olympic marathon and strolling occasions from the capital to the town of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost primary island, Hokkaido.
This transfer was reportedly prompted by IOC President Thomas Bach watching with horror the tv pictures of marathon runners collapsing beneath the warmth and humidity on the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha in September 2019. He needed to keep away from the chance of comparable scenes in Tokyo.
Initially of this month, Japan’s Ministry of the Setting unveiled its English-language “Warmth Stress Index for Surrounding Areas of Competitors Venues”, which ranks on an hourly foundation the warmth risk at every Olympics venue. The five-step scale ranges from blue (nearly secure) to crimson (hazard).
The Olympic organisers are additionally implementing quite a lot of smaller countermeasures to guard the athletes and employees, together with the widespread provision of mist machines, shaded benches, parasols, bottled water, air-conditioned rooms, and even ice baths and ice vests.
Some personal companies have additionally bought in on the act. Final week, Ralph Lauren unveiled its “RL Cooling” self-regulating temperature jacket, which can be worn by Crew USA’s flag-bearer throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Opening Ceremony Parades.
Chief Branding and Innovation Officer David Lauren defined in a press launch that “recognising Tokyo’s summer time warmth, we sought to develop an answer for Crew USA that fuses trend and performance – permitting them to feel and appear their greatest on one of many world’s largest phases”.
Regardless of their efforts, and the focus on COVID-19, the video games’ organisers haven’t fully escaped criticism over their preparations for excessive climate situations.
Yoichi Masuzoe, who served as governor of Tokyo between 2014 and 2016 and was immediately concerned within the earlier rounds of preparation, raised his issues on Twitter.
“The Olympics and outside competitions on this scorching and humid surroundings are a battle in opposition to heatstroke,” he wrote in Japanese. “The marathon and racewalking have moved to Sapporo, however the competitors in Tokyo can be horrible for the athletes.
“The choice to carry the Olympics in midsummer is because of tv broadcasting rights. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics have been rightly held within the autumn. This displays the harm completed by commercialism to the Olympics, which at the moment are dominated by cash.”
Masuzoe isn’t the one one to level out that the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, fondly remembered by many Japanese as an emblem of the nation’s financial restoration after World Conflict II, have been held in mid-October exactly so as to keep away from the extraordinary midsummer warmth and humidity of the Japanese capital.
Norbert Palanovics, Hungary’s ambassador to Japan, lately visited his nation’s group at its coaching camp.
Among the 176 athletes can be competing in sports activities which might be immediately uncovered to the summer time solar, comparable to in triathlon or kayaking.
The ambassador says these athletes are taking particular care to stay hydrated and that they’re accompanied by dietitians who “fine-tune” the sorts of meals that they eat to the recent climate and humidity.
“The data that we acquired on the embassy was fairly in depth,” Palanovics mentioned. “The organisers have ready extensively by attempting to point out the hazards of the Japanese heatwave, in order that the athletes and the groups can put together to the utmost extent potential.”
Even the delegations of nations with very cool climates imagine that they’re ready.
Raido Mitt, the coordinator of sports activities federations and Crew Estonia, says his Baltic nation’s 33 athletes embrace marathon runners, horse riders, rowers, and others. With a purpose to put together for the Tokyo Video games, they skilled in particular indoor services in Estonia beneath very popular temperatures.
He expressed confidence that his nation’s athletes have been as much as the climatic challenges that they’re dealing with.
“Everybody is aware of that the situations are very robust they usually have ready for these sorts of situations.”