A heatwave in Japan that has killed more than a dozen people is reviving concerns about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which will be held during the country’s notoriously sweltering summer.
While the Games have been held in places that are hotter or more humid than Tokyo, including Athens and Beijing, Japan’s sweaty summers offer both blistering heat and smothering humidity in a particularly unpleasant, and sometimes deadly, combination.
Olympic officials and Tokyo’s local government are touting measures from solar-blocking paint on roads to mobile misting stations to tackle the heat.
But some experts fear the efforts are insufficient, in a country where summer heat kills hundreds of people and hospitalises tens of thousands each year.
The Games will be held from July 24-August 9, a period where temperatures can hit 37 degrees Celsius and humidity rises to over 80 percent.
“Compared to past Olympics, it’s fair to say that this will be the most severe Games, as far as heat conditions go,” said Makoto Yokohari, a professor of urban engineering at the University of Tokyo.
The International Olympic Committee has approved moving the marathon start to 7:00am, with the men’s competitive walking beginning even earlier.
And Tetsuo Egawa, senior director of operation strategy planning for Tokyo 2020’s organising committee, is working on other ways to beat the heat.
“The sports that tend to raise the most concern are the non-stadium ones,” he told AFP, citing the marathon, sailing and canoeing, and golf as examples where “special measures” will be needed.
The main concern is heatstroke, particularly among spectators unused to hot weather who will spend hours outdoors watching events or queuing.
“We will have tents covering queues at security gates… (and) we are aiming to limit lines to 20 minutes long,” Egawa said.
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