Add “extreme heat” to the growing list of plagues facing this year’s Summer Olympics, an event I’m starting to suspect I would very much not enjoy participating in, even if they asked nicely.
According to the Washington Post, in addition to being derailed by a global pandemic that forced a full year’s postponement as well as a ban on all spectators, this year’s Summer Games are also set to be roiled by devastating July temperatures in Tokyo that have some officials worried for the safety of the competing athletes.
“The rainy season is over in Tokyo, and the hot summer has come!” Tokyo 2020 organisers declared during a news conference on Sunday amid temperatures in the low 90s and air that the Post describes as “so thick it felt as if you had to chew it before you could breathe it.”
Although the summer heat always poses a risk to athletes, who are competing at a level of exertion that could put even the most physiological sound human in danger of heat stroke or illness, the Tokyo Games are poised to become the hottest in more than 35 years of recorded temperatures, a circumstance that we can be attributed at least in part to the creep of climate change and global warming.
In a cruel twist of fate, the weather in Tokyo last year was unseasonably cool, owing largely to the fact that the region’s rainy season stretched longer than usual. Those conditions still would have posed challenges to athletes — as will this year’s typhoons, which are still projected to take place right on schedule — but the cooler temperatures would have helped to offset some of the more immediate physical concerns of overexertion and heat stroke.
In their efforts to prepare for the extreme temperatures, organisers have taken steps to accommodate athletes that might suffer in the heat, including installing shade tents, portable air conditioners, ice baths, coolers packed with bottled water, and mist fans in designated competition arenas. Some events have also been relocated to the northern city of Sapporo, located about 805 km north of Tokyo where the temperatures are slightly cooler.
If you ask me though — and again, nobody did — I say we just collectively take a literal rain check this year and get our groove back in 2024, when Sha’Carri Richardson can run the 100-metre race in Paris in peace.