By Daniel Leussink and Martin Quin Pollard
TOKYO (Reuters) – Many of the world’s top athletes will suffer alongside Tokyo residents in the Japanese summer heat, with high temperatures putting an added burden on participants in the Olympics starting this week.
Japan’s meteorological service issued warnings about the intense heat for a fifth straight day on Wednesday. The temperature in the capital, in the midst of another hot and humid summer, was 33.1 degrees Celsius at 15:00 local time this Wednesday.
Organizers are making tools available to combat the heat, including water misting stations for Olympic horses and cooler vests for referees. But the heat poses yet another hurdle for coaches and athletes, whose training for the Games has already been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Japanese summer is abnormal. There’s humidity and the heat is ridiculous,” said Misuzu Ueno, a 24-year-old Tokyo resident. “This climate is not suitable for the Olympics.”
New Zealand men’s hockey team coach Darren Smith said “an enormous amount of work” had been done to deal with the adverse conditions, which must be especially challenging during the morning’s matches.
“It will be hot,” Smith told reporters during a press conference at Tokyo 2020’s main press center. He said his team had trained and prepared a lot for the weather, including inside a heat chamber.
The high temperatures will be an additional challenge for athletes from countries in the Southern Hemisphere, such as New Zealand, where it is now winter. In Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, temperatures are expected to hover around 13 degrees Celsius this week.
Tokyo’s heat is also likely to be a complicating factor in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Experts say rescuers can confuse heat stroke with Covid-19, as the two conditions produce similar symptoms, such as fever and dehydration.
“It’s not just Covid’s patients, there will also be heat stroke patients, so I think it’s going to be tough on the medical front,” said Mariko Hoshimo, a 44-year-old resident of Chiba, which neighbors Tokyo.
New Covid-19 infections jumped to 1,832, the highest number in six months in Tokyo, and experts warned that this picture could worsen, putting even more pressure on the healthcare system, which is already dealing with more heatstroke patients.
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard, Daniel Leussink and Akira Tomoshige)
+ Learn about the effectiveness of each vaccine against Covid-19