TOKYO (Reuters) -As competitors battled for the podium on the third day of Olympic athletics on Sunday, it was Tokyo’s stunning heat that perhaps dished out the most pain. Sweat-soaked reporters donned wet towels as the women’s 3,000 metre steeplechase qualifier played out, the event’s trademark water hazard appearing more enticing than ever.
Some 30 people involved in the organisation of the Olympics have suffered heat-related illness so far but all had mild symptoms, Games director general Toshiro Muto said.
“Before the outset of the coronavirus problem, the important issue for the Tokyo Games was a response to heat illness,” Muto told reporters. “We looked into all sorts of scenarios to take thorough measures. I believe our steps have been working well so far.”
Bruno Schmidt, Brazilian 2016 gold medallist in beach volleyball, said the Games were hotter and muggier than he had expected. “The first two weeks here are one of the hottest that I had in my life, believe it or not.”
But South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk, 400-metre world record holder and 2016 gold-medallist, said that while it would be nice if the humidity could be dialled down, “every competitor needs to deal with it and we take it in our stride”.
World Athletics spokesperson Nicole Jeffery said the timetable has been designed to hold endurance events in the evening when it is cooler.
The packed evening agenda includes the marquee men’s 100-metre final.
“All athletes are provided with water and ice and the medical team is observing them closely to make sure no-one is showing signs of heat stress,” Jeffery said.
Jeffery added “cold water immersion facilities” were available for anyone suffering from heat.
The morning athletics programme saw China’s Gong Lijiao win the women’s shot put gold as qualifying rounds in the women’s hammer throw, long jump and men’s 400 metres took place.
The Tokyo Games, from July 23 to Aug. 8, coincide with the year’s hottest weather in Tokyo where the temperature can rise to 35 degree Celsius (95°F) or more. The 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics were held in October.
A study last year by a Games adviser, analysing data back to 1984, found that Tokyo had the highest average temperature and precipitation of any host city for the period the Olympics were held. Tokyo’s five hottest days since 1964 fell in or around the period of this year’s Games.
In 2013, the Tokyo bid committee promised “many days of mild and sunny weather”, providing “an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best”, in defending the timing, which was driven by global broadcast schedules, when the global sports calendar is otherwise light.
Battling stifling temperatures on Wednesday, tennis world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev warned officials a player “can die” in the heat. The sports’ governing body later agreed to delay match start times in response to similar complaints by other players.
Hockey players, sweltering on an unshaded pitch, were given double the usual number of two-minute breaks.
At the equestrian cross-country course, France’s Karim Florent Laghouag donned an ice vest, a wet towel and bags of ice around his neck when speaking to journalists after his ride.
“This is so good,” he said, pointing at the vest as temperatures climbed well over 30 degrees Celsius.
Organisers have deployed a host of tools – from mist-spraying stations to cooling vests to AI gadgets that warn of heat-stroke risk – to beat the heat while handing out salt tablets and ice cream to volunteers.
Tokyo has also used roads that reflect heat or pavements that absorb water and the organisers moved the marathon and race-walk to the cooler northern city of Sapporo.
Here’s what you need to know about the Tokyo Games:
Sun beating down on a fan-free Olympic stadium produced sweltering conditions for the women’s 3000m steeplechase and men’s 400m heats. A trackside thermometer placed about 50 metres from the finish line touched 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) and the humidity hovered around 60%.
At the unshaded pitch of the Olympic hockey stadium, officials doubled the usual two-minute breaks between quarters to allow players to cool off in the first quarter-final match between Germany and Argentina.
The staging of the Games between July 23 and Aug. 8 coincides with the year’s hottest weather in Tokyo.
Games organisers said 30 people, including volunteers and contractors, have suffered heat-stroke. All had mild symptoms.
FASTEST WOMAN EARNS PRAISE
American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who was ruled out of the Olympics after testing positive for cannabis, on Sunday applauded Jamaica’s sweep of the 100 metres sprint that she missed competing in.
“Congratulations to the ladies of Jamaica for the clean sweep,” Richardson tweeted https://twitter.com/itskerrii/status/1421603429936414726?s=20. “Powerful, strong black women dominating the sport.”
Thompson-Herah, 29, earned the moniker fastest woman alive https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/athletics-thompson-herah-leads-jamaican-sweep-womens-100m-2021-07-31 when she clocked a lightning quick 10.61 seconds, besting Florence Griffith-Joyner’s Olympic record from 1988.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who had been seeking a third gold in the event after having a baby, took the silver in 10.74 with Shericka Jackson third in 10.76.
The 10.49 world record of FloJo, who died in 1998, remains intact.
BILES OUT AGAIN
Simone Biles has withdrawn from the event final for floor and will make a decision later this week on the beam, the one remaining event she is qualified for at this Games.
“Either way, we’re all behind you, Simone,” USA Gymnastics said in a tweet.
It was not immediately clear who would take Biles’ place in the floor final on Monday.
Tokyo Games organisers are investigating after a group of athletes were found drinking alcohol in the Olympic village this week, violating measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The athletes were caught drinking in a park in the athletes’ village on Friday night, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told a news conference, adding police were later present at the incident.
Drinking and celebrating are normally features of life in the Olympic village, as athletes let off steam after years of gruelling training once their competitions end.
But with Tokyo 2020 taking place without spectators and under tight social distancing measures because of the pandemic, athletes have been subject to daily testing and their movements limited inside a “bubble”.
SWIMMING’S LAST DAY
Australia’s Emma McKeon became the first female swimmer to win seven medals at a single Olympic Games, while American Caeleb Dressel powered to victory in the 50m free and clinched his fifth Tokyo medal as Team USA triumphed in the men’s medley relay.
The United States ended an enthralling swimming competition in Tokyo with 11 gold medals, five less than in Rio and London.
Australia won nine, their most swimming golds at a Games, and Britain left with four golds as part of a record haul of eight total medals.
MORE GOLDEN ACHIEVEMENTS
Xander Schauffele had one hand on the gold medal as the final groups made the turn at the Olympic golf on Sunday after the American made a flawless start on a steamy day at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
-Swimming-Finke takes distance double with men’s 1,500m gold
-Athletics-Gong takes shot gold on scorching day, Adams chalks up another medal for the mums
-Cycling-Britain’s Worthington and Australian Martin win BMX freestyle golds
-Sailing-Wearn strikes gold for Australia
WHAT WE ARE WATCHING FOR (local times)
Men’s 100m final at 9:50 p.m.: Without Usain Bolt, the most open race in years promises to be the highlight of Day 9. Athletics medals will also be decided in the men’s high jump at 7:10 p.m. and the women’s triple jump at 8:15 p.m.
U.S. gymnast Sunisa Lee attempts her second Tokyo gold in the women’s uneven bars final, scheduled to start at 7:24 p.m. Earlier, Jade Carey and Mykayla Skinner compete in the vault final at 5:52 p.m. The men’s floor is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the men’s pommel horse at 6:41 p.m.
After his surprise defeat of Novak Djokovic, Germany’s Alexander Zverev battles Karen Khachanov, representing the ROC, for gold. The men take centre court after the women’s doubles gold medal match at 3 p.m.
Women’s 3m springboard final at 3 p.m.: China looks set to continue its dominance in diving after Shi Tingmao qualified more than 24 points ahead of her synchronised diving partner Wang Han.
The fencing rivalry continues with France taking on the ROC in the men’s team foil gold medal match at 7:50 p.m.
Women’s 76kg weightlifting finals at 7:50 p.m.
China v Taiwan in women’s badminton final at 9:20 p.m.
(Editing by Leela de Kretser and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)