Tokyo, Japan – As Japan prepares to carry the long-delayed Olympics on Friday, it isn’t solely the coronavirus pandemic that’s inflicting concern.
There are additionally worries concerning 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 received its bid to host the Olympics, there was concern concerning the resolution to carry the occasion in late July and early August when temperatures normally reach a excessive of about 35 levels Celsius (95 levels Fahrenheit) and humidity ranges between 70 and 80 %, making it really feel even hotter.
Climate change has solely been making the state of affairs extra uncomfortable.
Makoto Yokohari, professor of atmosphere and concrete planning on the University of Tokyo, tells Al Jazeera that in keeping with his analysis, the Tokyo Games are set to be the “worst case” for an Olympic host metropolis since at the very least 1986.
He explains that whereas different host cities reached temperatures which are much like these of Tokyo, all of them had summer time climates that have been sizzling and dry, quite than sizzling and humid.
“When it comes to the risk of heatstroke,” he defined, “it is a combination between the temperature and the humidity.”
Worse, the standard signs of heatstroke are additionally fairly tough to tell apart from these of COVID-19.
“If there are a number of people who have heatstroke, I’m very concerned how they might be treated, and I don’t think we have the capacity to treat a big number of those people,” he mentioned.
In current years, Japan has been experiencing a few of its hottest climate in trendy historical past, accompanied by extra frequent and intense rainfall and flooding occasions.
In 2018, at the very least 80 folks died throughout a heatwave in Tokyo, and on July 23 – the identical date as opening ceremony for the Tokyo 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 file for Japan, though different current summers have additionally come shut.
The torrid temperatures of July and August additionally are likely to see lots of of deaths and tens of hundreds of hospitalisations that authorities have attributed to heatstroke.
The resolution by the Olympic organisers to carry the video games with out spectators because of the pandemic could have upset each worldwide and native sports activities followers, but it surely did ease fears that aged Japanese and others might succumb to the warmth on the venues.
The newest climate forecasts counsel that the Olympic interval will certainly be sizzling and humid, though there could also be a interval subsequent week when rain helps convey the each day highs down by just a few levels.
‘Almost safe’ to ‘danger’
Organisers have taken some steps to scale back the danger to athletes, Olympic employees, and the media from the warmth, or, worse, an premature heatwave.
In late 2019, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), regardless of robust objections from Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, unexpectedly modified the venue of the Olympic marathon and strolling occasions from the capital to town of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost major island, Hokkaido.
This move was reportedly prompted by IOC President Thomas Bach watching with horror the tv photographs of marathon runners collapsing underneath the warmth and humidity on the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha in September 2019. He needed to keep away from the danger of comparable scenes in Tokyo.
At the start of this month, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment unveiled its English-language “Heat Stress Index for Surrounding Areas of Competition Venues”, which ranks on an hourly foundation the warmth risk at every Olympics venue. The five-step scale ranges from blue (almost secure) to purple (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 non-public companies have additionally bought in on the act. Last week, Ralph Lauren unveiled its “RL Cooling” self-regulating temperature jacket, which will probably be worn by Team 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 heat, we sought to develop a solution for Team USA that fuses fashion and function – allowing them to look and feel their best on one of the world’s biggest stages”.
Despite their efforts, and the concentrate on COVID-19, the video games’ organisers haven’t completely escaped criticism over their preparations for excessive climate circumstances.
Yoichi Masuzoe, who served as governor of Tokyo between 2014 and 2016 and was straight concerned within the earlier rounds of preparation, raised his issues on Twitter.
“The Olympics and outdoor competitions in this hot and humid environment are a battle against heatstroke,” he wrote in Japanese. “The marathon and racewalking have moved to Sapporo, however the competitors in Tokyo will probably be horrible for the athletes.
“The decision to hold the Olympics in midsummer is due to television broadcasting rights. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were rightly held in the autumn. This reflects the damage done by commercialism to the Olympics, which are now dominated by money.”
Masuzoe is just not 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 War II, have been held in mid-October exactly to be able to keep away from the extreme midsummer warmth and humidity of the Japanese capital.
Norbert Palanovics, Hungary’s ambassador to Japan, not too long ago visited his nation’s workforce at its coaching camp.
Some of the 176 athletes will probably be competing in sports activities which are straight 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 devour to the recent climate and humidity.
“The information that we received at the embassy was quite extensive,” Palanovics mentioned. “The organisers have prepared extensively by trying to show the dangers of the Japanese heatwave, so that the athletes and the teams can prepare to the maximum extent possible.”
Even the delegations of nations with very cool climates consider that they’re ready.
Raido Mitt, the coordinator of sports activities federations and Team Estonia, says his Baltic nation’s 33 athletes embrace marathon runners, horse riders, rowers, and others. In order to organize for the Tokyo Games, they skilled in particular indoor amenities in Estonia underneath very popular temperatures.
He expressed confidence that his nation’s athletes have been as much as the climatic challenges that they’re going through.
“Everyone knows that the conditions are very tough and they have prepared for these kinds of conditions.”