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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Tokyo heat and typhoon compound Olympics complications

Tennis stars urge schedule changes while organizers eye storm expected Tuesday

Tennis players seek relief from the heat in empty stands at the Tokyo Olympics.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Scorching heat and an approaching typhoon are threatening the Tokyo Games with new complications on top of persistent coronavirus concerns.

Organizers on Monday reported 16 new positive COVID-19 cases among Olympic personnel. Three of the 16 are athletes who have not been in the Olympic Village. That brings the total since July 1 to 148.

At the same time, Tokyo has entered an intense stretch of summer days with high humidity and maximum temperatures of 30 C or hotter.

Over the weekend, the world's top men's tennis players, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, called on organizers to move matches to the late afternoon for the rest of the competition.

Djokovic said the conditions were "very tough," according to Reuters. "I think today, from also speaking to other players, was the hottest day so far. It's very hot but also humid. The hardcourts absorb the heat, it stays trapped in there. Not much wind, not much breeze."

The intense heat nudged the International Tennis Federation to modify its rules for the Olympics. Under the new regulations, either player in a singles match can request a 10-minute break between the second and third sets if the temperature rises to a certain level.

The conditions are a far cry from the description in Tokyo's original candidacy file, which stated, "With many days of mild and sunny weather, this period provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best."

In 2019, the International Olympic Committee decided to change the marathon venue from Tokyo to Sapporo, Hokkaido, due to concerns over heat. Now organizers say they are taking appropriate measures to cope with the weather by preparing abundant water and ice at the venues.

As for requests to move events to cooler times, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said on Sunday that "competition schedules have been built where possible to avoid the hottest parts of the day but that is not possible with every sport."

McConnell added, "The International Tennis Federation is looking at that and we will support them in any measures they are looking at," suggesting the IOC would back changes if they are deemed necessary.

Djokovic and Medvedev are not the only ones feeling the heat. Russian archer Svetlana Gomboeva briefly fainted during a qualifying round last Friday.

Besides the temperature issues, organizers also face a typhoon or tropical storm that is expected to hit Tokyo and the surrounding region on Tuesday. The Tokyo metropolitan area is likely to get a dose of heavy rain, strong winds and high ocean waves.

Public broadcaster NHK reported the storm is intensifying and could bring gusts of up to 126 kilometers per hour.

As part of their countermeasures, organizers moved up rowing events to Sunday, one day earlier than initially scheduled. Some archery events planned for Tuesday were also postponed to later hours or after Wednesday.

But on Monday, Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masanori Takaya said "at this time there are no plans to change the schedule for any of the other events due to be held on Tuesday."

"We will continue to monitor the latest weather information to ensure the safety of all those involved in the games," Takaya added.

Some outdoor events including beach volleyball and surfing are scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

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