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 won 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 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 based on his analysis, the Tokyo Video games are set to be the “worst case” for an Olympic host metropolis since a minimum of 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 sizzling and dry, slightly than sizzling and humid.
“In relation to the chance of heatstroke,” he defined, “it’s a mixture between the temperature and the humidity.”
Worse, the everyday signs of heatstroke are additionally fairly tough to differentiate from these of COVID-19.
“If there are a selection of people that have heatstroke, I’m very involved how they may be handled, and I don’t suppose we have now the capability to deal with a giant variety of these individuals,” he stated.
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, a minimum of 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 file for Japan, though different latest summers have additionally come shut.
The torrid temperatures of July and August additionally are likely to see a whole bunch 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 could have disillusioned 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 sizzling and humid, though there could also be a interval subsequent week when rain helps carry the each day highs down by just a few levels.
‘Virtually protected’ 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 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 primary island, Hokkaido.
This transfer was reportedly prompted by IOC President Thomas Bach watching with horror the tv photos of marathon runners collapsing beneath the warmth and humidity on the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha in September 2019. He wished to keep away from the chance of comparable scenes in Tokyo.
Originally of this month, Japan’s Ministry of the Atmosphere 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 (virtually protected) to pink (hazard).
The Olympic organisers are additionally implementing a wide range 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 received in on the act. Final week, Ralph Lauren unveiled its “RL Cooling” self-regulating temperature jacket, which shall be worn by Group 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 Group USA that fuses style and performance – permitting them to feel and look their finest on one of many world’s greatest levels”.
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 instantly concerned within the earlier rounds of preparation, raised his issues on Twitter.
“The Olympics and outside competitions on this sizzling 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 shall 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 carried out by commercialism to the Olympics, which at the moment are dominated by cash.”
Masuzoe just isn’t the one one to level out that the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, fondly remembered by many Japanese as a logo of the nation’s financial restoration after World Struggle II, have been held in mid-October exactly as a way to keep away from the extreme midsummer warmth and humidity of the Japanese capital.
Norbert Palanovics, Hungary’s ambassador to Japan, lately visited his nation’s crew at its coaching camp.
Among the 176 athletes shall be competing in sports activities which might be instantly uncovered to the summer time solar, equivalent 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 new climate and humidity.
“The data that we acquired on the embassy was fairly in depth,” Palanovics stated. “The organisers have ready extensively by attempting to point out the risks of the Japanese heatwave, in order that the athletes and the groups can put together to the utmost extent doable.”
Even the delegations of nations with very cool climates imagine that they’re ready.
Raido Mitt, the coordinator of sports activities federations and Group Estonia, says his Baltic nation’s 33 athletes embrace marathon runners, horse riders, rowers, and others. So as to put together for the Tokyo Video games, they skilled in particular indoor amenities in Estonia beneath extremely 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 powerful and so they have ready for these sorts of situations.”