(ATR) IOC inspection chief John Coates says the Tokyo organizing committee is tackling the country’s disaster risks and extreme weather issues.
John Coates at press conference following latest Tokyo 2020 project review (Tokyo 2020/Shugo Takemi)
Speaking at the close of the ninth project review of Tokyo 2020 preparations Wednesday, Coates was repeatedly asked if the IOC was satisfied with Japan’s approach to dealing with natural disasters and the sizzling summer heat.
He responded by saying the Tokyo Olympics were already “very complex games” with the most sports – 33 – and events ever, coupled with a wide distribution of venues.
Japan’s strongest typhoon in 25 years hit the nation last week and was followed by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake that shook the northern island of Hokkaido, killing dozens of people and leaving hundreds injured. Over the summer, a record-breaking heat wave, torrential rains and flooding have brought concerns for the IOC and Tokyo 2020.
Coates said the recent disasters were a wake-up call for Games organizers. “What happened last week and what happened in Osaka certainly have hit home to me, and I know the organising committee, about the further complexity of planning these games, because they have to be prepared,” he told a press conference wrapping up the IOC visit.
“It’s something the organising committee is impressing on their staff and taking into account in planning.”
Commenting on Japan’s summer heat wave in particular, Coates said “a lot of attention” had been paid to it by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and organizing committee. They had developed measures to combat any repeat of the extreme heat in 2020.
Water sprays and extra shade at venues, especially at the urban cluster of venues, are part of plans to keep athletes and spectators cool during Games-time. “There has to be more medical people ready at these venues to step in if something happens. It [Tokyo 2020 plans] were very impressive. It’s certainly front of mind for them I can assure you,” he added.
The IOC was also in favor of daylight savings to reduce heat issues for Olympic competitors and sports fans, Coates said.
“We have observed the discussions happening in this country. We certainly see the potential of daylight savings… it does seem a very good solution to us,” he said.
The IOC’s latest check-up on Tokyo 2020 preparations comes ahead of the full review of Coates’ coordination commission in November and the ANOC general assembly.
The timetable for the Olympic torch lighting and relay was also announced Wednesday.
The Olympic flame will be lit on March 12, 2020 in Ancient Olympia, with a Greek leg of the torch relay taking place before the handover at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on March 19. The flame is set to arrive in Japan a day later, and will be displayed for six days in Miyagi prefecture, Iwate prefecture and Fukushima prefecture, commemorating the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region in March 2011.
Tokyo 2020 will launch its Games volunteer program on Sept. 26, with 80,000 volunteer posts up for grabs.
Coates said: “I encourage the people of Japan to have a serious look at this and I think those that do it will derive great satisfaction and pleasure from it.”
Also today, following an agreement with the IOC and FINA, Tokyo 2020 confirmed that swimming finals will take place in the mornings and heats in the evenings. It will allow U.S. Olympic broadcaster NBC to show the finals in prime-time slots.
Yoshiro Mori, president of Tokyo 2020, had lobbied for the swimming finals to be held in the evenings for the Japanese TV audience. But he said Tokyo 2020, FINA, the IOC, Olympic Broadcast Services and other Olympic stakeholders “considered the balance of the Olympic Games as a whole to come to the decision”.
“By dispersing the finals the Games in Tokyo will draw more attention for the people of the world,” he told the press conference.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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