Heat is on as Tokyo celebrates two years until start of Olympics

The Associated Press

TOKYO — The 2020 Olympics will open in two years, and the heat is on.

Since being awarded the games, which will be the largest ever with 33 sports and 339 events, Tokyo organizers have had to deal with a series of problems ranging from stadium and construction delays, natural disasters and a scandal involving the official logo.

Most of the obstacles have been cleared up, but a deadly heat wave gripping Japan has focused organizers on ways to keep fans and athletes cool when the Olympics begin on July 24, 2020.

Potential for scorching summer conditions has always concerned organizers, with temperatures in central Tokyo often exceeding 95 degrees in July and August, made more difficult because of high humidity.

This summer’s heatwave has resulted in more than 65 deaths and sent tens of thousands to hospitals. The temperature on Monday 106 degrees, the highest ever recorded in Japan.

Experts have warned the risk of heatstroke in Tokyo has escalated in recent years, while noting the Olympics are expected to take place in conditions when sports activities should normally be halted.

“We are mindful that we do have to prepare for extreme heat,” John Coates, head of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Games, said at a recent news conference.

The 1964 Games in Tokyo were held in October to avoid the harshest of the heat. That was before the Olympics schedule was influenced by rights-paying broadcasters and sponsors.

Local organizers are doing what they can to help athletes combat the conditions. The marathon and some other outside events will be held early in the morning to avoid extreme heat.

The federal and the Tokyo metropolitan governments are also planning to lay pavements that emit less surface heat and plant taller roadside trees for shade.

“The spectators as well as the athletes have to be taken care of,” Coates said.