Tokyo heat and typhoon compound Olympics complications

Nikkei -- Jul 27
TOKYO -- Scorching heat and an approaching typhoon are threatening the Tokyo Games with new complications on top of persistent coronavirus concerns.

Organizers on Monday reported 16 new positive COVID-19 cases among Olympic personnel. Three of the 16 are athletes who have not been in the Olympic Village. That brings the total since July 1 to 148.

At the same time, Tokyo has entered an intense stretch of summer days with high humidity and maximum temperatures of 30 C or hotter.

Over the weekend, the world's top men's tennis players, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, called on organizers to move matches to the late afternoon for the rest of the competition.

Djokovic said the conditions were "very tough," according to Reuters. "I think today, from also speaking to other players, was the hottest day so far. It's very hot but also humid. The hardcourts absorb the heat, it stays trapped in there. Not much wind, not much breeze."

The intense heat nudged the International Tennis Federation to modify its rules for the Olympics. Under the new regulations, either player in a singles match can request a 10-minute break between the second and third sets if the temperature rises to a certain level.

The conditions are a far cry from the description in Tokyo's original candidacy file, which stated, "With many days of mild and sunny weather, this period provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best."

In 2019, the International Olympic Committee decided to change the marathon venue from Tokyo to Sapporo, Hokkaido, due to concerns over heat. Now organizers say they are taking appropriate measures to cope with the weather by preparing abundant water and ice at the venues.

As for requests to move events to cooler times, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said on Sunday that "competition schedules have been built where possible to avoid the hottest parts of the day but that is not possible with every sport."

Besides the temperature issues, organizers also face a typhoon or tropical storm that is expected to hit Tokyo and the surrounding region on Tuesday. The Tokyo metropolitan area is likely to get a dose of heavy rain, strong winds and high ocean waves.

Public broadcaster NHK reported the storm is intensifying and could bring gusts of up to 126 kilometers per hour.

As part of their countermeasures, organizers moved up rowing events to Sunday, one day earlier than initially scheduled. Some archery events planned for Tuesday were also postponed to later hours or after Wednesday.

- Nikkei