A marathon swimming test event is held Sunday at Odaiba to check the water temperature and quality ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photo: AFP

Tokyo Olympic organizers, FINA test water quality, temperature

By Richard Carter

Athletes voiced concerns over water quality and temperature at a marathon swimming test event for Tokyo 2020 Sunday, as officials vowed to monitor the situation closely in the run-up to the games.

"That was the warmest race I've ever done," said three-time Olympic medalist Oussama Mellouli from Tunisia after completing the 5 km men's competition at Odaiba.

"It felt good for the first 2 km then I got super overheated," added the 35-year-old, who won gold in the 10 km swim at the London Olympics in 2012.

The event started at 7 a.m. with the air temperature already over 30 degrees as the Japanese capital swelters through a deadly heatwave.

"The water temperature was high, so I'm a bit concerned about that," said Yumi Kida from Japan, who said she guzzled iced water before the race in an effort to reduce her body heat.

International Swimming Federation (FINA) rules state that athletes may not race when the water temperature exceeds 31 degrees and FINA's executive director Cornel Marculescu said competitors' wellbeing was top priority.

Marculescu said an external body would be set up in conjunction with Tokyo 2020 organizers to monitor both water quality and temperature in the run-up to the games and the results could affect the timing of the marathon swimming event.

"Based on this information, we will decide the time the event will start. Could be 5 a.m., could be 5:30 a.m., can be 6 a.m., can be 6:30 a.m. -- depends on the water temperature," he told reporters.

"Working with a specialized company like we are going to do here in Tokyo, we will have the right information to take the right decision."

Hot weather issues have become the biggest headache for Tokyo organizers, who have already moved up the start time of several events including the marathon in a bid to mitigate the effects of the blistering heat of the Japanese summer.

In terms of water quality, David Gerrard from FINA's medical committee said readings from the test event would not be ready for 48 hours but previous results gave cause for optimism.

"What we have had are readings from the last month, daily readings that have given us very clear indications of the water quality, which has been good," he said.

Organizers are desperate to avoid the embarrassment of the Rio Olympics in 2016 when the pool used for diving events turned an unsettling shade of green overnight.

Brazilian officials also had to scramble to clean up the bay used for sailing and windsurfing that was plagued by sewer bacteria and filthy with rubbish.

In October 2017, Tokyo 2020 organizers were left red-faced after tests revealed levels of e-coli bacteria more than 20 times higher than international standards, sparking doubts about the venue's safety.

At the time, the organizing committee blamed prolonged summer rain that had brought pollutants from offshore for the high readings between late July and early September.

A year later, organizers said that tests using underwater "screens" to filter the water had successfully reduced bacteria levels at the venue, which will also host triathlon.

They tested single and triple-layer screens -- some 20 meters long and three meters wide -- and found that both were effective in bringing bacteria down to safe levels although the triple screen, expected to be employed during games time, worked best.

Japanese swimmer Kida said the water was "a little stinky, and the clarity was not very good so I really want to improve the quality."

The event will be held in Odaiba, a Tokyo bay area with a backdrop of the city and the Rainbow Bridge that links the area to downtown. On clear days Mount Fuji is visible and the area is also noteworthy for a replica Statue of Liberty.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I went to Odaiba once. I could smell the sewage before I even saw the water. When I got to the beach, the water looked black and there were signs warning against swimming.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

The temperature Tokyo reaches in August has never been a secret.

Starting key events before people are even awake, is good evidence that Tokyo in August is unsuitable for major sporting events.

It also gives good evidence that Japan needs to change time zones - the fact that you can discuss changing events to 5 am shows how much light and cooler weather is wasted in Japan.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

after swimming in nuclear waste water in Brazil this should be a breeze...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Knowing how things are here, the event organizers are probably going to come up with some plan to "cool" the water somehow to allow the event to continue as scheduled.

Or run the event at 2AM!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How come I can picture volunteers shoveling ice into the sea just in front of the swimmers? I really hope that for everyone’s sake, next year will be much cooler than it has been in the past decade.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yuck, that water is gross.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

And yet with all this climate change the Japanese government isn’t discussing the number one contributor to climate change - animal agriculture.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Do it just after sunrise, no matter what time it is

It's not the sun's fault if it rises at 4am in Tokyo

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wait a minute...they tested water quality and temperature by having a bunch of people jump in and swim?

How does it taste? How do you feel?

Lol...well it's on par with how they are handling Fukashima, so...whatever.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

And yet with all this climate change the Japanese government isn’t discussing the number one contributor to climate change - animal agriculture.

Cripes, people here like beef! You want to bitch about it, go hit up the major beef producing countries, and leave the olympics out of it!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Might as well make these The Dawn Olympics.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


How does it taste?

"A little nutty"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

bloody disgusting that water.. wouldnt swim there

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is beyond STUPID, I heard athletes complained about the stench & temperature being too was too warm.....well DOH!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How can it be a good idea to swim in the waters around Tokyo?

And yet another added expense ‘measuring water quality’ to the already bloated bill!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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