The idea of introducing daylight saving time during the 2020 Tokyo Games has received mixed reactions from government officials and politicians, with the government’s top spokesman taking a cautious approach to the concept that has been floated as a way to protect athletes and spectators from summer heat.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Monday that daylight saving time would “have major impacts on people’s daily lives.”
Separately, a senior government official said: “The government has studied the advisability of introducing DST many times in the past (regardless of the Olympics), but has been saying that it’s difficult to adopt the system.”
Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, proposed the idea to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a meeting Friday.
“We must consider a fundamental measure to cope with summer heat waves,” Mori told Abe, calling for a decision by the prime minister. In response, Abe said it could be a solution to the problem.
Toshiro Muto, director-general of the organizing committee, who was part of the meeting, said: “We want the government to fully study the introduction of DST as the Olympics will be a national project.” Specifically, the committee proposed that the clock be advanced by one or two hours during the Olympic Games.
Daylight saving time has been introduced in countries such as the United States, Canada and New Zealand. The system was adopted in Japan in 1948 but was scrapped in 1952 because it was unpopular.
Critics say that shifting the country’s clocks could cause sleep disorders, such as insomnia, while there are concerns that it may increase overtime hours.
If daylight saving time is introduced only in Tokyo to keep possible adverse effects confined to the capital, Japan would have multiple time zones, a situation that could cause confusion.
The Tokyo Olympics are set to take place from July 24-Aug.9, 2020, at the peak of the city’s hot and humid summer.
According to the games’ schedule approved by the International Olympic Committee’s executive board on July 18, the men’s and women’s marathons will start at 7.a.m., the triathlons at 8 a.m. and race walking events at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., in an attempt to minimize athletes’ exposure to extreme heat.
But the organizing committee now sees the need for further measures after Tokyo and many other parts of Japan were stricken by record heat waves this summer.
The temperature in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, on July 23 reached 41.1 C to set a national record. On the same day, the mercury hit 40.8 in Ome, western Tokyo, topping 40 degrees for the first time in the capital.
At a meeting in the city of Fukui on Saturday, Mori reiterated the need for DST, saying, “It’s the only way” to cope with the heat wave.
“The summer heat wave is extremely serious this year,” Mori said, suggesting that many countries could call for the timing of the Tokyo Olympics to be changed out of concern that severe heat may hit during the games.
Among politicians, Akira Koike, head of the Japanese Communist Party, voiced opposition to the idea at a news conference Monday.
DST will “send Japan into turmoil as adjustments would be needed for computer systems and many others,” Koike said, calling for the Olympics to be moved to September or October 2020 instead.
Meanwhile, Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told a separate news conference the same day that DST is “worth considering” as a measure to reduce the burdens on athletes, spectators and Olympic staff workers.