Some Not Convinced Tokyo 2020 Cooling Measures Will Suffice - By Elizabeth Jeneault
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Some Not Convinced Tokyo 2020 Cooling Measures Will Suffice

By Elizabeth Jeneault for The J-Pop Exchange

Hurricane Dorian’s relentless and heartbreaking battering of the Bahamas has caught the attention of many and has reignited conversations about climate change. But, scientists and other experts aren’t just pointing to Dorian as proof of global warming. They say Japan’s recent heatwave also serves as a prime example. That heatwave, in addition to a crippling one the country saw last summer, has people concerned for the safety of athletes, spectators, and others at the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics.

A devastating heatwave last July in Japan left at least 96 people dead of heatstroke across Tokyo’s 23 wards alone. In total, over 1,000 people died across the country from last summer’s heat. Unfortunately, this summer wasn’t much different. Dozens more have also died of heatstroke, with average daily highs in August of about 94.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Tens of thousands have also been hospitalized.

While Tokyo 2020 released a 38-page guide in late June with a full list of the cooling initiatives it’s considering to try to help minimize the risks of extreme heat, some are now questioning whether that will be enough.

The recent death of an Olympics construction worker has sparked calls for Tokyo 2020 organizers to possibly do more. The 50-year-old worker was in the process of laying cable when he died. He was found unconscious on a day where the weather topped 95 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels exceeded 80 percent.

Questions about how Tokyo 2020 will address the potential extreme heat next summer were further raised when several rowers had to be treated for apparent heat exhaustion at a recent Olympic test event. The Kyodo news agency said medical officials at that event admitted more will need to be done to help cool down athletes, who appeared to be staggering after competing. Some are also now suggesting the grandstand’s roof be expanded, as it currently covers only about half of the 2,000 seats. That was a cost-cutting measure that rowing officials are not happy with. They’re now advocating for a roof expansion.

Tokyo 2020 organizers say they are taking everything into consideration, and will adjust their overall cooling strategy accordingly. They are closely watching test events to monitor how athletes are coping with the heat. A Tokyo 2020 official recently told the International Olympic Committee that they will assess the success of the measures this fall and make further revisions at that point.

As for what measures have already been lined out, we know there will be fire engine-sized misting stations, air-conditioned cooling tents, shaded rest areas, ice packs for people to use, and medical professionals standing by. The main stadium was also specially designed to help channel cooler air across spectators and onto the track.

Organizers have also already pushed back the start times of the men’s and women’s marathons to 6 a.m. local, to try to help avoid the extreme heat. The timing of other events has also been impacted. If need be, officials are also prepared to postpone or even cancel Olympic events because of the extreme heat. Something else under consideration is water bottles. Spectators might be allowed to bring their own into stadiums, though that’s still reportedly under discussion.

While Tokyo 2020 is doing its best to ensure people the extreme heat will not be a major problem at the Summer Games, not all are convinced. It’s clear people will continue paying attention to their cooling plans.

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