Climate change and Tokyo Olympics: extreme heat could pose health risk for athletes, report says

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The report, released on Wednesday by the British Association for Sustainable Sport, details the concerns of leading athletes and scientists about the health effects of soaring temperatures in Japan.

According to the report, the average annual temperature in Tokyo “has increased by 2.86 degrees Celsius since 1900, more than three times faster than the world average.”

The Olympics are scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8 – a time when Japan typically experiences its highest annual temperatures, which soar even more in the warming climate.

“I think we’re definitely approaching a danger zone,” British rower and Olympic hopeful Melissa Wilson told the study’s authors. “It’s a horrible moment when you see athletes crossing the line, their bodies retreating in total exhaustion, then not getting up.”

Some events for the upcoming Summer Games have already been moved from Tokyo due to heat issues, including the marathon, which will take place nearly 500 miles north of the Japanese capital at Sapporo, where temperatures are expected to be much cooler. .
READ: Cancellation of Tokyo Olympics ‘essentially irrelevant’, says IOC member Dick Pound
Runners compete in a half marathon in Sapporo on May 5 - a test event ahead of this year's Olympics.
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The study details how events such as triathlon, marathon, tennis and rowing could be affected by hot conditions.

It also provides advice to athletes on how to cope with competition in the heat, as well as warnings on how the climate crisis could derail sporting events in the future.

“Olympic organizers must take the warnings in this report seriously or face a real risk of competitors collapsing from heat exhaustion,” said Mike Tipton, professor of human and applied physiology at the Environments Laboratory. extremes of the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences. British University of Portsmouth.

“In a sporting context, a hot and / or humid environment can represent a risk for the performances and the health of spectators, officials and athletes. heat or with heat stroke collapse, all facets of a sport the event – and everyone involved – can be negatively affected. ”

The International Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on the report.

But organizers have already released an outline of plans to minimize the risk of heat on all participants in the Tokyo Olympics.

This includes preparing sites to keep people as cool and hydrated as possible, providing weather forecasts, and providing information on how to mitigate the risk of heat and treat the resulting symptoms.

READ: What could happen if the Tokyo Olympics are canceled?
In recent years, Japan has experienced record high temperatures during the summer months, with heat waves becoming more and more common. The 2018 heatwave killed more than 1,000, according to the Japanese government.
Protesters hold a protest against the Tokyo Olympics in the Japanese city of Kameoka on May 25.

“While the average high temperature in Tokyo during the Olympics (late July to early August) is 30 to 31 C (86 to 88 F), they often experience high temperatures in the mid-30s (mid-90s). F) and in recent years have even approached 40 C (104 F), ”CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said.

“The combination of this heat and very high humidity has led to several deadly summer heat waves across Japan in recent years. These conditions will undoubtedly put extreme pressure on the athletes at the outdoor venues during the Games. Olympics, ”Ward said.

“These recent summer heat waves that have affected many parts of East Asia (and the world) can be attributed, in part, to climate change and global warming. As our planet warms due to increased greenhouse gas emissions, our climate is changing in many countries. One of those ways is the increase in heat waves – longer duration, more intense and more frequent. Recent scientific studies have attributed more extreme heat waves in Japan to climate change, and note that they are increasingly likely as the planet warms. ”
READ: IOC chief says Olympics will run safely despite Covid push in Japan
When Tokyo last hosted the Olympics in 1964, it did so in the coolest October. But broadcast requests now stipulate that the Games take place in July or August, according to Reuters – a more favorable niche for television networks.
The cauldron was lit during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games on October 10, 1964.

It’s not just the Olympics that have to take into account the searing temperatures.

At the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, marathon runners struggled in 32-degree heat and humidity levels above 70%, even after the start times were moved to midnight. In the women’s event, 28 of the 68 riders who took the start failed to finish and some had to be stretched out of the course.
Meanwhile, at the Australian Open tennis tournament, recent temperatures are known to exceed 40 degrees Celsius, causing players to faint on the court.

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