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Organizers Have Huge Concerns About Heat at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

We’re only a year away from the 2020 Olympic Games, and Tokyo, Japan will host the competition. While it’s a wonderful city, Olympic organizers are somewhat concerned about one issue they can’t control: the heat. It has the ability to derail the games significantly. So why are organizers so concerned, and what are they planning to do about it? 

How Tokyo got the 2020 Summer Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics on September 7, 2013. The committee selected Tokyo over competing cities that included Rome, Madrid, Doha, and Baku. They selected Tokyo, Madrid, and Istanbul as the final three candidate cities. 

There is a 13-hour time difference between Tokyo and America’s East Coast, yet NBC still plans to offer live as well as taped coverage of the events. The games will run from July 24 through August 9, 2020. First-time sports include 3-on-3 basketball and skateboarding. 

Why the organizers have huge concerns about heat

According to an AP report via ESPN, rising temperatures in Japan have led to 57 deaths since late July. On top of that, over 1,800 people have been hospitalized with heat-related symptoms. The temperature has remained above 88 degrees Fahrenheit since July 24, 2019. As noted, July 24, 2020 is the day next year’s Summer Olympics will begin in Tokyo. 

A JMA scientific officer, Tomoyuki Kitamura, told ESPN that Tokyo suffers from a ‘heat island effect,’ where concentrated heat in cities prevents them from cooling off at night.” Tokyo has a massive population of 9.2 million, which compounds the issue as well.

It’s a serious health concern. A great deal of the Summer Olympic sports will take place outdoors. The heat could hurt not just the athletes’ performances, but their physical well-being, too. Tokyo last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964. That year the games were moved to October to accommodate heat concerns.

What the organizers plan to do about it

The Tokyo Olympic organizers do not plan to take this lying down. They’ve been working on countermeasures to help mitigate the heat at events. The committee already made a few scheduling changes in advance. Tokyo will hold the men’s and women’s marathon at 6:00 a.m. and the men’s 50km race-walk at 5:30 a.m. in an attempt to beat the blistering late-afternoon temperatures. 

The committee is also experimenting with other plans. A beach volleyball tournament was able to evaluate some countermeasures, as ESPN explains. “Organizers cooled off the sand with water from firefighter-grade hoses. Some athletes immersed themselves in giant buckets of ice water while others used ice packs.” Tents kept volunteers out of the direct sunlight, and spectators were able to use both hand fans and permitted water bottles to cool off.

They’ve also implemented a number of tools, including electric fans, misting towers, and reflective coating material. The latter was laid over roads in the center of the city to decrease the surface temperature. 

It’s impossible to tell whether these measures will work, as the event is over a year away. It’s also hard to predict what the weather will be like a year from now. But at least Japanese officials are prepared, making it more likely they’ll be able to manage the heat.