TOKYO: While Japanese residents remain indoors as the country battles a surging coronavirus (COVID-19) infection rate, the athletes, media and staff members participating at the 2020 Olympic Games are outside and have faced another foe — the Tokyo summer heat.
Local and international media reported that athletes in some sports have been affected by the intense weather, which has reached 34 degrees Celsius in Tokyo during the past two weeks.
One observer suggested it was no coincidence that Japan’s flag was a representation of the sun, while runners in the 3,000-meter steeplechase said the water on the track was hot to the touch.
A number of athletes have commented on the heat while Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic described the situation as “cruel.”
Even the water sport events were unbearable. Slovak canoe slalom athlete Matej Beuche compared the competition on Tokyo Bay to “rowing in a bath” as seawater surface temperatures hit 31 degrees Celsius at one point.
Australian swimmer Kareena Lee, who won the bronze medal in the women’s 10-kilometer event, reportedly claimed that a flying fish collided with her during her race because “the seawater was too hot for the fish.”
By comparison, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which were held in October, had an average daytime temperature of 20 degrees Celsius.
Taking into account the potentially harmful effects of high temperatures on athletes, all matches at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be played in air-conditioned stadiums and will also be aided by a November-to-December schedule.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has come under fire for holding the Games during a pandemic but it has also been criticized for holding the competition in the middle of Tokyo’s hot summer. It was reported that the scheduling of the Olympics was influenced by the American television broadcaster NBC.
But if the overheated experience of the 2020 Games convinces the powers that be to give more consideration to a suitable season and climate, it would be a step in the right direction.