Overcome various challenges facing 2020 Tokyo Games one by one

The Yomiuri ShimbunTest events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have been held. The findings of these tests should be utilized to solve specific problems that have come to the fore, such as how to deal with high summer temperatures and how to guide spectators at venues.

The objective of the tests is to sift through expected problems in the operation of sporting events, using the competition venues that are to host the Games next year. The tests were carried out this summer, mainly for outdoor sports events.

The most important challenge was sweltering summer temperatures. In Tokyo, there were 21 consecutive days in August when the maximum temperature topped 30 C. During the previous Games in Rio de Janeiro, the average maximum temperature was 27 C. During the Games before that, which were held in London, the average maximum temperature was around 24 C. It can be understood what a severe position Tokyo is in.

About 10 athletes complained of feeling sick during the tests for boat competitions. During the tests for beach volleyball, too, athletes and watching children suffered mild heatstroke.

During the actual events, audiences will stand in lines, outside in sweltering summer temperatures, waiting for the events to start at competition venues. Thorough responses will be required, including the use of sunshades and mist showers.

It is also feared that heat waves will have an adverse impact on the equestrian events, in which animals take part. As horses have difficulty adapting themselves to high temperatures, extra efforts were made to help them maintain their physical condition during the tests, providing them with air-cooled stables and transport vehicles.

The association of equestrian events said there were no problems, but there were requests from the athletes for an earlier start for the events, which are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. It is desirable for flexible responses to be made if they would help the events be held under better conditions.

Know-how at home, abroad

In guiding spectators, an unexpected problem came up in the golf events. During the tests, competition was suspended on three occasions for a combined period of 3½ hours due to thunderclouds that approached the golf course. Spectators took shelter in safety sheds or elsewhere during the tests. But during the Games next summer, as many as 25,000 spectators are expected to gather at the course.

During the 2020 Games, the golf events are scheduled to be held for a total of eight days when those for men and women are counted together. It is highly likely thunderclouds will develop during the events. How should a large number of spectators be led to evacuate to safer places? The organizers of the events should use their ingenuity to install temporary tents and secure evacuation routes.

Difficult problems emerged during swimming tests held in Tokyo Bay. In the open water swimming tests, athletes said the water at the venue smelled like a toilet. During the recent paratriathlon events at the venue, the swimming segment of the events was canceled, as high levels of E. coli bacteria were found, at least twice as high as accepted limits.

High levels of bacteria are believed to have developed as wastewater from the Tokyo area was released into the bay without having been sufficiently treated, due to heavy rains that fell with the passing of a typhoon. Yet some have also pointed out the impact of the marine plants that perished as the tides in the area became stagnant because of screens stretched in the sea to block bacteria from entering the area. Measures should be implemented after determining the causes of the problem.

It is said the organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Games will compile and make public the findings of the tests by the end of September. Solutions must be found by sharing the challenges beyond the framework of individual sports organizations and drawing on knowledge gathered both at home and abroad.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 2, 2019)Speech


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