Tokyo Olympics: Just when the IOC, the Japan Olympic Organisers and Yoshihide Suga-led government thought they found ways to protect athletes from Covid, a new and bigger problem has surfaced. According to a UK-based association, climate change has added risk of intense heat and high humidity which could threaten the health and performance of athletes.
The British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS) in a report released on Wednesday, titled “Ring of Fire: How Heat Could Impact the 2021 Tokyo Olympics”, said athletes are increasingly being asked to compete in an environment that are becoming “too hostile” for the human body.
The impact of climate change is likely to be felt in Japan, which has experienced record-breaking heat waves in recent years. The host city’s temperature has climbed by 2.86 degrees Celsius since 1900, over three times faster than the world’s average, the report noted.
“The message is clear — the number of situations in which we are exposing athletes and competitors to extreme risk, at all levels of sport, continues to grow as climate change intensifies,” said Russel Seymour, founder and chief executive of BASIS. “Athletes can race against time and each other, but they cannot be expected to outrun climate change.
Tokyo Olympics News: How does climate affect athletes?
The temperature has a significant impact on the performance of athletes. High temperature can cause various heat-related problems like heat cramps and strokes, while low temperatures may lead to hypothermia.
India’s Olympic-bound long jumper Murali Sreeshankar says there are a lot of factors that come into play for athletes performance but the proper climate is the most important. If the conditions are ‘not ideal’ the performance will be badly impacted no matter what.
“It’s very important because the performance is guided by a lot of factors. We can do our personal best only when the conditions are very ideal. My jump in 2018 in Bhuvneshwar (created a national record with 8.20m leap), the conditions were really perfect because that day it was about to rain. There was a bit of humidity in the atmosphere.
“The concentration of ions in the atmosphere was also was a bit higher than the usual condition. And that stimulates the body of an athlete quite good as ions dissolve in the body much faster. Compared to this, in Patiala, the climate was cooler and there was a little headwind. So, it affects the jump.
“Weather plays a very crucial factor, for an athlete, no matter what he is doing regardless of the discipline he is participating in,” he told InsideSport.
However, more than the jumpers and throwers, it is the running and cycling contingent that’s going get affected the most.
During the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, only 40 of 68 runners finished the women’s marathon, despite the race being moved to midnight to avoid searing daytime heat.
Tokyo Olympics Weather forecast: What will the temperature be in Japan from July 23-August 9
In 2018, a heatwave saw temperature increase to record 41 degrees Celsius in Tokyo’s neighbouring Saitama prefecture, causing thousand to fall ill with heat-stroke.
According to a Bloomberg report, the temperature in the Japanese capital are forecast to average between 26.3 and 27.4 degrees Celsius in August. The maximum could reach as high as 39.1 degrees Celsius on August 3. For perspective, it is 11.1 degrees more than the Tokyo Olympics in 1994 which took place in October, according to BASIS.
And it would place the city among only a handful of Olympic hosts with temperatures higher than 25 degrees: Beijing (2008), Athens (2004) and Atlanta (1996).
With the Games scheduled to take place between July 23 and Aug. 8, some events including the marathon and road cycling have been shifted to cooler places near Sapporo and Mount Fuji.