Sustainability Environment

Olympics athletes figuring out how to compete in hottest Games ever

(© Tokyo 2020 and TMG via the IOC)

Story at a glance

  • Olympic athletes are facing what could be the hottest summer Olympics on record.
  • Tokyo first hosted the Olympics in 1964, when the summer heat convinced organizers to move the start to the fall.
  • The IOC has already moved a few endurance events to cities with cooler expected temperatures.

The coronavirus pandemic has created numerous challenges for Tokyo Olympic organizers, prompting a yearlong delay and sparking worry over viral spread. Now, athletes and organizers are facing what could be the hottest summer Olympics on record. 

Tokyo first hosted the Olympics in 1964, when the summer heat convinced organizers to move the start to the fall. This time around, beginning during the negotiations over the Japanese capital’s pitch to host the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made a few adjustments, The Guardian reported, including moving some of the endurance events to cities with cooler expected temperatures. 

The average temperatures expected at this year’s Games, based on a 20-year average, will sit between 91.4 and 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 


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“Holding the Games during July and August … was a serious issue even before the coronavirus pandemic,” Haruo Ozaki, the chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, previously told reporters, according to The Guardian.

“There are still high risks of heatstroke at events such as competitive walking, triathlon and beach volleyball,” Ozaki added. 


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Games organizers have implemented measures designed to protect competitors from the brutal combination of heat and humidity. Cooling tents and mist fans will be supplied for athletes while volunteers will be offered ice cream.

Japan’s environment ministry uses a color-coded scale, which measures temperature, humidity, wind and radiation, to advise residents on the safety of physical activity, according to The Guardian. On Tuesday the number reached 89.2 F, surpassing the ministry’s general guideline for stopping events when the scale reaches 87.8 F. The temperature is reportedly expected to fall over the next few days ahead of the delayed Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to begin on July 23 under a state of emergency.  

The Japan Times reported that more than 8,000 citizens sought medical treatment due to symptoms of heat stroke in July 2019. Yet the number declined by nearly double from 2019, when the country recorded 16,431 hospital visits. In Tokyo, the average annual temperature since the 1964 Olympics has increased by 3.6 F due in part to global warming. 


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