The New National Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Photo: AFP/File
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Top doctor sounds alarm over heatstroke at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

34 Comments
By Hiroshi HIYAMA

One of Japan's top doctors has slammed the decision to hold the Olympics at the height of Tokyo's baking summer, warning that heatstroke will be the "biggest risk" during the Games.

In an interview with AFP, Kimiyuki Nagashima, executive board member of the Japan Medical Association, also sounded the alarm that the Olympics will stretch the country's doctors at a time when local families are most at risk from the heat.

And it's not just the heat: Nagashima cautioned against the risk of communicable diseases as people fly in from around the world and gather en masse. Measles is thought to be a particular risk as many Japanese are not adequately vaccinated as children.

"My personal opinion as an individual is that sporting events should be held in a comfortable environment. I don't think it is agreeable to hold it at an inappropriate period at an inappropriate location due to business and economic concerns," he said.

The sweaty Tokyo summer is "generally speaking not a suitable place" for outdoor sports and for their spectators, added the doctor, an orthopaedic surgeon who oversees the association's sports medicine activities.

In the city's bidding document to win the Games, Tokyo said the competition period between July 24 and Aug 9, followed by Paralympic Games, "provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best" with "many days of mild and sunny weather."

However, last summer, nearly 93,000 people sought emergency care across Japan, with 159 of them dying. Most of these cases took place during the time the summer Olympics will take place.

"From the start, we have seen heatstroke as the biggest risk factor for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as far as health goes," Nagashima said.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held in October to avoid the heat of the summer and the issue has quickly become the major headache for organizers, who have otherwise won praise for their preparations.

Organizers have brought forward the start time for several events including the marathon and rolled out a variety of anti-heat measures including artificial snow.

However, recent test events did little to cool fears, with a French triathlete treated for heatstroke and several spectators taken ill at a rowing trial.

Many test events took place under conditions regarded as "dangerous" for exercise, according to the internationally accepted WBGT index that measures heat and humidity.

Nagashima said he had urged organizers to think beyond the Games and be "fully considerate" that medical emergencies during the competition will divert resources away from locals at a critical time.

"Japan's heat is not just about the high temperature. Humidity is extremely high... This means a higher risk of getting sick than in other countries," he said.

But given that Japan is determined to host the event, the nation must prepare itself and offer visitors advice to stay healthy, the doctor said.

"There are steps you can take to avoid heatstroke. Please learn about heatstroke. Take preventative measures. Then please come to Japan and enjoy the Olympics in comfort," he said.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

34 Comments
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duh a little late dontcha think?

22 ( +22 / -0 )

Once again, prior planning, prevents piss-poor, performance, is NOT a part of the vocabulary!

Where were all these people when the discussions were being held to bid for the Olympics? Oh right, they were all brushed aside. But since foreign athletes and associations are actually checking out the facilities and finding out about the conditions, the committee is looking to do "something"

I'll bet some are hoping for a typhoon too!

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Macv: Completely agree. It's never been a secret that the summer in Japan is far too hot for outdoor sports. (And in door sports given the autrocious lack of HVAC and insulation in this country.)

It is absolutely inexcusable that there is a risk from measles. It's 2019 ffs.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

In the city's bidding document to win the Games, Tokyo said the competition period between July 24 and Aug 9, followed by Paralympic Games, "provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best" with "many days of mild and sunny weather."

This is fraudulent bidding. Blatant cheating before the games even start.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

It is absolutely inexcusable that there is a risk from measles. It's 2019 ffs.

There were 350,000 cases of measles recognized last year. Only reasonable to take precautions.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Wow someone who doesn't lack the courage to make his thoughts known. Someone who can exercise his convictions at the risk to himself, but to the benefit to the health of the country. Japan wouldn't be in the mess they are in if they had more Kimiyuki Nagashimas!

Who's more patriotic, one who stands for the countries national song as that is the very thing that is expected or one who remains seated despite the pressures from all sides to conform? They love their country so much to risk judgement just to convey to the land they love that it has gone down the wrong road?

10 ( +10 / -0 )

One of Japan's top doctors has slammed the decision to hold the Olympics at the height of Tokyo's baking summer, warning that heatstroke will be the "biggest risk" during the Games.

I’m glad he's throwing this out there but he should have done this 7 years ago when we were awarded the Games. (Or even before then.)

The line they gave, "Provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best" with "many days of mild and sunny weather," is something Abe would have no idea about since the boy born with the silver spoon in his mouth has never had to leave an air conditioned room or limo.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

This means a higher risk of getting sick than in other countries," he said.

Right, the "humidity" in Japan is "more humid" than in other countries! Just like everything else here, Japan has more of everything compared to "other countries".

I am going to guess that this doctor has never been anywhere where it REALLY gets humid!

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

duh a little late dontcha think?

It would be too late to begin building facilities, but that's not the case here. Postponing the games to September is still quite feasible. The problem is that nobody "in charge" is willing to stick his neck out. Typical.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

There were 350,000 cases of measles recognized last year. Only reasonable to take precautions.

Inexcusable given the measles vaccine has been around for more than a few decades now.

Every child in every developed country should be vaccinated. I know this is asking a lot given Japanese doctors don't even know the correct usage of antibiotics. "You can stop taking them when you feel better."

4 ( +6 / -2 )

@Yubaru

Japan is more humid compared to some countries and less humid compared to others. That's just how climate works.

I don't think this is the area to combat against the "Japan is the most unique country" mantra. It's a legitimate concern for athletes coming from less humid countries. And I also think the doctor has a decent point about the possibility of doctors getting overloaded with patients and not being able to look after everyone.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Measles is thought to be a particular risk as many Japanese are not adequately vaccinated as children

And, whose fault is that?

It’s great to see this top doctor come out and state that heatstroke will be a problem. Japanese doctors are very good at stating the blatantly obvious. Here is another gem from the same ‘top Doctor’.

“There are steps you can take to avoid heatstroke. Please learn about heatstroke. Take preventative measures.”

*No mention of how to avoid heatstroke. Just another obvious and hollow statement.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will set many new records. The records for the most athletes and spectators effected by heatstroke and the record for the most deaths of athletes during events.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The Olympic committee use keeping its mouth shut on the matter and allowing Japan to deal with the problem. Time they admitted to what the hell they were thinking

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yeah, but this guy is just a doctor. We need to listen to the politicians and business people who say it'll be fine.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I'm from Atlanta and I don's see the big deal. The weather there in summer is worse than Tokyo - higher humidity (avg 70~80%), poor air quality, temps about the same but the elevation is much higher (1000 ft. above sea level). The Olympics there, in late July early August, went off without a hitch health wise for the most part. Marathon runners and other athletes had more problems with the elevation than the heat (the marathon did start at 7:00 a.m., which is actually a little before sunrise there). Common sense is the best way to prevent heatstroke, but, unfortunately, that seems to be in short supply. Folks there know how to deal with the heat.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

> "There are steps you can take to avoid heatstroke. Please learn about heatstroke. Take preventative measures. Then please come to Japan and enjoy the Olympics in comfort," he said.

The biggest step is watching it from the comfort of some temperate country on the tv!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Once again, prior planning, prevents piss-poor, performance, is NOT a part of the vocabulary!

if it were it wouldn't be Japan

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Yeah but it wouldn't make as much money or watched on TV if the Olympics are in October so no. Money's more important than lives...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

People need to be told common-sense nowadays.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Too late to change the date. People have booked their hotels and flights. They should have compared it to Tokyo Olympics 1964.

i have been to Tokyo 3 times in July. One was super hot and humid but 2014 was surprisingly not as hot.

Let’s hope it won’t be as hot as 2019.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Gotta love the haters. The preparations for the Olympics are going so well the only thing the press can talk about is the weather. The article is a sign on well the preparations are going. The doctor said something interesting: "the risk of communicable diseases as people fly in from around the world "

Really? If the preparations were going so well there would be no need to discuss the problems with the water, the weather, and how the organizers are going to deal with heat related problems that most certainly will arise!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Compare the weather today Saturday to Tuesday the day after the typhoon. Huge difference. It’d be more enjoyable for everyone if sweat isn’t trickling down your back.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

if only they could move the Olympics to (AT LEAST) September... but it,s too late for that, so nothing we can do...

imo, the problem is not the high temperatures (pretty much everyone can handle the heat), the humidity is the problem. and also, i hate it when it rains while it,s hot and humid. where i come from, if it,s rainy, it,s supposed to be cold. summer weather in Japan is a mess, and it,s good people are talking about it now, but they should,ve done that a long time ago. now it,s too late. anyway it,s still the Olympics and people will still go, but it won,t be pretty i,m afraid.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, it’s not really Japan’s decision. The Olympics has been held in the summer since the 1980s due to American TV networks. They just wouldn’t show it if it took place at another time and the IOC can’t manage without that level of sponsorship.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It's never too late for anything. Next year hasn't happened yet. Everything is decided by humans. If we work together we can do anything!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

There were 350,000 cases of measles recognized last year. Only reasonable to take precautions.

Like the vaccine you mean? No vaccination, no entry to Japan. Don't vaccinate your kids - no school.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Well, it’s not really Japan’s decision. The Olympics has been held in the summer since the 1980s due to American TV networks. They just wouldn’t show it if it took place at another time

That would be a plausible theory except that they already had the summer Olympics in September in 2000.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Where has this so-called 'top doctor' been for the last 4-5 years? Hiding under a stone? Why only now opening his mouth and criticising the timing and the JOC?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Having the Olympics during a Tokyo summer makes no sense.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

2013: "Tokyo an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best"

2019: "Yeah, about that..."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why don't Japanese people know how to handle hot weather? It happens every year. Surely air conditioning hasn't turned a whole nation into wimps. Okinawa has heat indexes over 38 C (100 F) virtually everyday for months in the summer. And it only cools off about 8 degrees at night. People seem to go on with normal activities dispite the hot weather. Heatstroke is very rare in Okinawa.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

100% of the blame for the inappropriate timing lies with the demands of American media. Go ahead, vote me down - but this is the truth. In 1964 that problem had not yet emerged and the games could be held at a much more amenable time of the year.

Once again the holy US$ calls the shots!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Collegepark, that's a great inadvertent point. Maybe if Japan observed daylight savings and didn't have absolutely absurd summer sunrises of 445am, then it wouldn't be so oppressive even at 7am. But of course, no need to change things , Just keep on keeping on Japan, and continue to fall behind the rest of the open advanced world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Correct reason to be very worried about. I got very bad heat rash this summmer, first time in my life of 32 years in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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