Eye Opener: Climate Change is a Threat to 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo olympics climate change

Covid-19 isn’t the only danger at the Tokyo Olympics. Climate change is adding another risk as intense heat and high humidity threaten the health and performance of athletes, according to a U.K.-based association.

By Heesu Lee
From Bloomberg Green

Athletes are increasingly being asked to compete in environments that are becoming “too hostile” for the human body, the British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS) said in a report released Wednesday titled “Rings of Fire: How Heat Could Impact the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.”

The impact is likely to be felt this summer in Japan, which has experienced record-breaking heat waves in recent years. Tokyo’s mean temperature has climbed by 2.86 degrees Celsius since 1900, more than three times as fast as the world’s average, the report said.

“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.”

The BASIS climate report comes as the Tokyo Olympics, already delayed by a year, is facing increased pressure because of the pandemic. Japan is under another state of emergency amid a resurgence of virus cases, prompting top business leaders to call for the Olympics to be postponed again or scrapped altogether.

Japan can get dangerously hot in the summer. A heat wave saw temperature surge to a record 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tokyo’s neighboring Saitama prefecture in 2018, causing thousands to fall ill with heat stroke. Each year has more days when the maximum daily temperature exceeds 35 degrees Celsius, especially since the 1990s, the report said.

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Temperatures in the Japanese capital are forecast to average between 26.3 and 27.4 degrees Celsius in August, reaching a high of 39.1 degrees Celsius on Aug. 3. That compares with an average of 11.1 degrees for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, 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.

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