2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Facing Another Hurdle with Extreme Heat

by Jonathan Howard

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games have had its fair share of setbacks and issues. The most obvious being the pandemic setting the entire Olympics back a year to 2021. Then there are the more minor issues. Bears walking onto softball facilities, cardboard beds, and all sorts of other problems have popped up. Tokyo organizers have done quite a good job at keeping the games moving.

Not just logistical issues have held Tokyo officials back. There have been a number of controversies with organizers from sexist comments. The director of the opening ceremony resigned as well as other officials. Now, there is another issue arising.

While organizers have been concerned with the COVID-19 issues, another act of nature is threatening the games and athletes. Increasing temperatures amid a heatwave in the region have officials worried for athlete safety. For those athletes that will compete outside, the temperatures could become dangerous. Heatstroke and other problems could arise if athletes compete in extreme heat.

Temperatures will reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and track & field athletes could suffer the most. A simulation was put together to demonstrate the risk the athletes face in the hot weather. The internal body temperature tipping point for heatstroke is 102 degrees. The last thing the Tokyo Olympic Games needs is an issue to occur on the track.

Hottest Olympics on Record

The Tokyo Games could be the hottest on record. The simulation put together to show the heat risk tells a lot about what could happen. For runners in the 10,000m, they could lose up to 1.5 pints of water over the course of the race. The risk is immense and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

While track & field has been a staple of the Olympics since the beginning, its counterpart, cross country has not been. In fact, the event was only ever held three times at the Olympics. The last time occurred in Paris in 1924. Temperatures soared to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and fumes from a nearby power plant did not help the athletes competing. Finland won gold as a team, but just barely.

With the soaring temperatures, only 15 runners completed the race. 23 runners would not finish the race and the Red Cross had to go looking for those who had passed out. Finland’s third runner, Heikki Liimatainen would finish in 12th overall. It would take him over two minutes to finish the last 30 meters as he suffered from dehydration and suspected heatstroke. The runner almost made his way into the stands of the stadium.

History shows how dangerous extreme heat can be for these runners. Great precautions should be taken to prevent any kind of 1924 event from taking place again. Seeing athletes get hurt or injured at the games is one of the worst things to see. Hopefully, all the runners and competitors will be well taken care of in order to prevent tragedy.