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Tokyo Olympic construction worker dies of suspected heatstroke

21 Comments

A worker at a Tokyo Olympics construction site died on Thursday after being found unconscious while working outside, organizers said on Friday, with media saying heatstroke was suspected as the Japanese capital swelters through a deadly heatwave.

Soaring temperatures have killed at least 57 people across Japan since late July, just a year before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Games, highlighting the possible health threat to athletes and fans that is one of the biggest challenges for Olympics planners.

A 50-year-old construction worker who'd been laying cable outside Tokyo Big Sight, which is being renovated to serve as the media centre for Tokyo 2020, was found unconscious on the ground on Thursday afternoon and taken to hospital, where his death was confirmed, Tokyo 2020 organizers said in a statement.

"The cause of death is still unknown," spokesman Masa Takaya said in an email, adding that they would provide more details once the cause of death was clear.

Police quoted by national broadcaster NHK said conditions at the site suggested heatstroke may have been the cause, but police declined to confirm the report to Reuters. Temperatures in Tokyo hit 35.5 Celsius on Thursday.

Temperatures in Tokyo have clung above 31 degrees Celsius since July 24, exactly a year before the Games are set to open, with the heat intensifying in August to average daily highs of 34.8 Celsius.

At least 57 people died across Japan from the heat between July 29 to Aug 4 and 18,347 were taken to hospital. Some 45 people have died in Tokyo alone since Aug 1, NHK said, many of them elderly living on their own.

Most of the Summer Olympics have been held during the northern hemisphere summer, but when Tokyo hosted the Games previously, in 1964, they were shifted to October to avoid the summer heat. The Mexico 1968 Olympics were also held later due to weather conditions.

Such shifts are no longer possible, though, due to international broadcasting and sports schedules, including the U.S. American football season and European soccer. Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 were held in summer despite the climate of both cities.

Olympics organizers plan to take steps to deal with the heat, including shaded rest areas, tents at security checkpoints, mist sprays and ice packs.

The start times for the men's and women's marathons, on Aug 9 and 2 respectively, have been moved to 6 a.m. as an additional precaution.

Tokyo is hosting the Olympics for the second time, with the Games running from July 24 to Aug 9.

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21 Comments
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The first casualty of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and we still got almost 5 more months of 2019 to go.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Serrano

The first casualty of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and we still got almost 5 more months of 2019 to go

I don't think it's the first. I believe one passed away from overwork. He clocked 190 hours of overtime in the month he died.

However I think this is the first one caused by a heat stroke.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Yeah this is not the first death. https://zeenews.india.com/other-sports/2020-tokyo-olympics-japan-stadium-workers-suicide-was-death-by-overwork-say-parents-2025399.html

But again caused by careless superiors who care more about work and meeting deadlines than the well-being of their employees.

The start times for the men's and women's marathons, on Aug 9 and 2 respectively, have been moved to 6 a.m. as an additional precaution.

6 AM is already hot, why not make it 4 AM? The poor athletes are probably already get lack of sleep due to the excitement. Seriously the organization is garbage.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Sad news about this worker.

At least 57 people died across Japan from the heat between July 29 to Aug 4 and 18,347 were taken to hospital. Some 45 people have died in Tokyo alone since Aug 1, NHK said, many of them elderly living on their own.

I think there should be a fuel subsidy for low income/elderly people during the summer/winter.

I wonder how many don't turn on the ac due to making a choice of eating or paying the electric bill? Wasn't electricity invented to make life easier?

And yet to use it, in some cases, is an extravagance.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Wonder how many international athletes will refuse to compete due to the heat and danger to their health, or shall we run a book on how many die in the heat? The IOC are so greedy rather than stand up to the media they grab the money with both hands.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The start times for the men's and women's marathons, on Aug 9 and 2 respectively, have been moved to 6 a.m. as an additional precaution.

Marathons are not typically held during the summer. They are, however, held during the "cooler" months in places with hot climates, meaning that there are marathons all the time in weather warmer than what it most likely will be in Tokyo. Marathons in the tropics typically begin at 4am or even 3am, in the dark. It's still hot, but it is better than when the sun comes out. Because this race is the Olympics, they want spectators, and that means a start at a more reasonable (to non-runners) hour. They also want to be able to run fast, which means that they can't run in the dark. But it also means that the athletes should all be running for less than 3 hours, which means that 6 is not an unreasonable time to begin.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The hosts will not change the summer heat times because they see it as a medal rush advantage.

Its obvious. The Japanese organisers fancy their chances of a haul of medals because their athletes are more accustomed to the Japanese summer heat.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The "Death Olympics" are coming. And when people stall collapsing during events, no medals in those events will be valid and can be contested. It's going to be an embarrassment.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Such shifts are no longer possible, though, due to international broadcasting and sports schedules, including the U.S. American football season and European soccer.

In other words - the needs and dictates of the corporate sponsors outweighs the 'sport' and the athletes.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Tokyo is a great city.

It is not a suitable place for a Summer Olympics.

Have the oyajis in cool biz floral shirts given up on the idea of asking shops to turn up the ACs full blast and opening their doors?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Man, I hate to hear this. I often think of construction workers and road workers during the summer months. Thank goodness we have people willing to do such work. There is a team of workers renovating the elementary school across the street and they've been working with jackhammers up on the roof this week. I can't imagine how hot that must be. RIP

7 ( +7 / -0 )

There's a word that describes this death very accurately: Foreshadowing.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Wonder how many international athletes will refuse to compete due to the heat and danger to their health, or shall we run a book on how many die in the heat?

My guess is very few. The athletes are ego driven and would probably compete no matter what the conditions if they thought they could win or improve their rankings.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

RIP.

To be honest i’m surprised that only 1 person has died this far into August. It looks like the Olympics will be a lot safer than all the naysayers have been claiming after all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Its obvious. The Japanese organisers fancy their chances of a haul of medals because their athletes are more accustomed to the Japanese summer heat.

Except that Japanese, whether athletes or ordinary folk, are not used to these temperatures. (57 dead and thousands hospitalized is a bit of a hint). It’s only recently that the temperatures have become so extreme. I can remember when 30 degrees was a blisteringly hot summer day, and 33+ was virtually unheard of.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Its obvious. The Japanese organisers fancy their chances of a haul of medals because their athletes are more accustomed to the Japanese summer heat.

It is well known that the timing of the Olympics was set by foreign television networks that did not want the Olympics going on at a time that would compete with American football or European soccer.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is well known that the timing of the Olympics was set by foreign television networks that did not want the Olympics going on at a time that would compete with American football or European soccer.

So in 1896 before tv was invented the networks were dictating when the Olympics were held?

The Olympics have always been held when there is no NFL, before the NFL even existed.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Henny Penny

..."the timing of the Olympics was set by foreign television networks..." 

If it weren't for the "foreign" TV networks, the Olympics wouldn't be nearly the global event it is today, and cities like Tokyo wouldn't be interested in hosting them.

Anyway, they pay a ton of money for the rights, and therefore they should have a voice on scheduling. Tokyo officials knew all this before submitting their bid, so that doesn't excuse them one bit.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Henny Penny: "It is well known that the timing of the Olympics was set by foreign television networks that did not want the Olympics going on at a time that would compete with American football or European soccer."

Sorry, but you guys have been passing the buck since the date was decided BY JAPAN. Yes, foreign media put a lot of pressure on Japan to hold it in July/August, but it was also the Japanese media and particularly pro baseball that did the same, as holding it in October would interfere with the run up to the climax series and Japan world series. Ergo, the Japanese media and networks are every bit as much to blame, and now they are panicking.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I heard this again today while discussing the heat -- the timing is the fault of foreign media. I asked the guy I was talking to, who decided ultimately on the date? He couldn't answer. I answered for him. "Japan". Honestly, is Japan just so weak that they have no choice but to do as told? or did they knowingly and willingly choose a date that is going to endanger the lives of thousands of spectators and athletes alike? Japan is not a victim here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

False.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-heat-explainer/why-the-summer-olympics-are-held-in-july-august-despite-heat-idUSKBN1KG17H

.....The IOC stipulated that bidders for the 2020 Olympics should hold the event between July 15 and Aug 31. Tokyo chose July 24 to Aug 9.....

...To set the dates, the IOC gets input from international sporting federations so as not to interrupt their schedules.....

.....Candidate cities can propose alternative dates, although they are not always granted. When Doha in Qatar proposed hosting the 2020 games in October because it was too hot in July and August, the Olympic Broadcasting Services, which provides TV coverage for many events, and International Television and Marketing Services were critical of the idea in feedback published in an April 2012 Olympic working group report......

Reuters also published this article in Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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