Staying cool a concern for 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Updated 11:14, 02-Sep-2019
Steve Ross

Tokyo's candidacy proposal for the 2020 Summer Olympics described the megalopolis' July and August weather in terms that many Japanese and visitors just wouldn't find true.

Now critics say the words that "sold" the Tokyo 2020 Olympics could lead to injury or worse for participants, and potential legal hot water for those who created the bid.  

Tokyo-based investigative journalist Jake Adelstein summarized the Tokyo 2020 Olympic heat controversy: "The Japanese government has told some colossal lies in their time, but the biggest lie they ever said was in the prospectus they sent to the International Olympic Committee where they said August is a lovely time to hold the Olympics in Tokyo because it's 'mild.' That is completely false."

Did Tokyo officials lie about the weather to get the 2020 Summer Olympic Games?

It's a powerful accusation, but one that seems to be backed up by language in the original candidacy proposal, which calls Tokyo's summers "mild" and "ideal."

Screenshot of Tokyo 2020 Olympics Proposal

Screenshot of Tokyo 2020 Olympics Proposal

And, some say, it's this language that could ultimately endanger Olympic athletes, spectators, and staff – and possibly result in criminal penalties for those who made the bid.

"I think there's going to be so many people injured or falling ill at the Olympic Stadiums themselves, I wouldn't be surprised if someone files criminal charges – of criminal negligence resulting in injury or death, because that's how bad it is," Adelstein asserted.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will run from July 24 to August 9, and the Paralympics from August 25 to September 6.

This July, Tokyo's peak temperatures reached 35 degrees Celsius (about 95 degrees Fahrenheit) with 75 percent humidity.

In July of 2018, a record heatwave killed nearly 100 individuals in Tokyo alone, and in August 2018, roughly 1,100 persons were transported to Tokyo hospitals due to heatstroke symptoms.

With all of the attention focused on Tokyo's summer heat, one might imagine that Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games officials would be getting a bit hot under the collar, but they say they're putting extensive measures in place to ensure that the Games are cool enough.

Tokyo Heat Countermeasures /CGTN Photo

Tokyo Heat Countermeasures /CGTN Photo

Tokyo 2020 Olympics project director Haremi Tamura described the cooling challenge: "There's no single perfect heat countermeasure. It's important to build an array of measures considering all aspects. Our points of focus will address facilities, water supply, general management, information distribution, and rescue operations."

Many of Tokyo 2020's heat countermeasures have already undergone test runs for practice with real crowds.

As Tokyo's new Olympic Stadium nears completion, its cooling greenery accents the stadium's free airflow design, but with a multitude of Olympic venues, concerns were stoked in early August when one venue construction worker died of apparent heatstroke. 

Cooling aid station /CGTN Photo

Cooling aid station /CGTN Photo

Tokyo 2020 officials say that regarding heat risk at the Games, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

"Our official website will provide weather reports, information about heatstroke prevention, hospital and medical information, and more," Tamura stated, continuing, "We will give 'push notifications' via our official mobile application."

However, security check points will make matters more difficult, increasing waiting time in the heat, and – yet to be decided – possibly preventing spectators from bringing their own drinks into Olympic venues.

Among Tokyo 2020's multiple heat countermeasures, marathon start times have been moved at least an hour earlier to take advantage of low morning temperatures, special heat-reducing road coatings will be employed and, in a simple nod to nature's cooling power, Tokyo's municipal government will restrict pruning to allow lush tree growth along the marathon route.

(Cover photo via VCG)