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It is no coincidence that many people think that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are cursed. It was delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and now the horror comes from the climate crisis.
This Olympics has been and is being hampered by the relentless heat. There have been tennis matches where the body temperature reading makes the athletes feel like they have a fever. There are beach volleyball matches where the sand burns the players’ feet, or when the women’s soccer team has to demand that their game be postponed or rescheduled. Here are some of the worst ways these dangerously hot conditions have affected this year’s games.
Kai Kazmirek of Germany puts an ice pack on his head during the men’s pentathlon shooting competition, on August 4, 2021 at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan
Last week, Spanish tennis player Paula Badosa suffered a heat stroke that forced her to leave the court in a wheelchair, giving up her women’s singles quarter-final against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic. Earlier the same day, Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev told the referee that he feared his life was threatened by the heat. Sports officials have sought to move the tennis match start time to 3 p.m. instead of 11 a.m. to avoid the hot weather. But in Tokyo – especially in light of the current climate crisis – the late afternoon weather is still horribly hot.
To keep the players cooler, the event organizers installed electric fans and provided the tubs with ice and coolers filled with bottled water. But all that doesn’t do much for beach ballers, who have to compete barefoot in the sand.
Beach volleyball players have to endure not only hot air temperatures but scorching ground temperatures. In fact, during training sessions last month, some players even said the sand burned their feet, forcing them to leave the field. Sports officials had to dig up the sand before the players could return to the field. However, according to the latest reports, the sand at the matches is still as hot as 45 degrees Celsius in recent matches.
Archery competitions are also taking place. But in the first week of the Olympics, Russian archer Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed while checking her last shot. That day, in the arch of the archery area, the highest temperature was forecast to be 33 degrees Celsius. Gomboeva’s staff and teammates ran to support and put ice packs on her head to cool down. The female athlete quickly regained consciousness, but she still had to leave the arena on a stretcher.
Both the Swedish and Canadian teams have simultaneously submitted a request to the Olympic organizers to request a delay in the start of the women’s soccer final, to avoid the harsh heat of the Japanese summer. The match schedule will require the two teams to play at 11 a.m. local time on August 6, but the extreme heat and humidity have worried athletes from both teams.
But, the problem is that the athletics are scheduled to compete at this stadium in the evening. So the reschedule will have a knock-on effect. Let’s hope they find another solution, like moving the game to another stadium.
The men’s and women’s marathons are set to take place in Sapporo this weekend. They were originally scheduled to go to Tokyo, but organizers moved them to Sapporo, north of Tokyo and located on the island of Hokkaido, where generally cooler temperatures are expected.
But, Hokkaido is currently experiencing a historic heatwave, with the average July temperature setting a record, reaching 38.4 degrees Celsius. These are clearly not ideal conditions for running any distances. come on, let alone the distance of 42.2 km.
Organizers are taking precautions, like providing 14 water stations along the track, with nine of which will also have crushed ice. But at some point, the question is, is the Olympics really worth the risk of the contestants and their supporters risking their lives?
Last week, the Daily Beast found that, in their bid to host the Olympics, Tokyo officials were dishonest about the potential dangers heat could pose. In a 2020 bid, the team behind the bid assured the IOC that “With many days of mild weather and sunshine, this period provides the ideal climate for athletes to compete at their best”. But Tokyo’s temperatures tend to rise, and climate change is increasing the risk of even more extreme heat. If organizing Olympic competitions in the coming years, it is better for the organizers to carefully consider climate trends before choosing a venue.
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