National

Japanese organizers confident Odaiba's water will be safe for Olympians to swim in

by Ryusei Takahashi

Staff Writer

The organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics on Friday said they are confident next year’s outdoor swimming races won’t be canceled like the test run in August was, thanks to measures to keep E. coli bacteria at acceptable levels.

Water-quality tests at Odaiba Marine Park during the summer revealed that triple filtering screens kept E. coli levels within agreed upon limits, the organizing committee announced at a news conference.

“Unless a massive typhoon were to strike leading up to the events, we are confident that there will be no problem in hosting athletic competitions at Odaiba Marine Park,” said Kaori Akiya, general manager of the venue.

On Aug. 17, the swimming leg of the International Triathlon Union’s Paratriathlon World Cup was canceled after E. coli levels in the park the previous day had been found to be double the ITU’s limit. This prompted the organizers to change the competition into a biathlon. The triathlon for able-bodied athletes was held the next day after E. coli levels subsided.

The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee also announced that progress had been made on countermeasures for the capital’s deadly heat.

Ice cream, shading tents and artificial snow are just a few of the latest additions to a growing list of clever attempts to help athletes, spectators, staff and volunteers stay cool during the Summer Games.

“We’re working hard to figure out how to approach the needs of each venue on a case-by-case basis,” said Tokyo 2020 Games Delivery Officer Hidemasa Nakamura. “We are building a comprehensive plan to protect those competing in, watching and working at the 2020 Games from the summer heat.”

In cooperation with the central government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the organizers conducted a series of events this summer to test the effectiveness of various countermeasures in the lead-up to the games.

Measures such as rescheduling events to earlier in the day, shortening the triathlon and equestrian events, and providing more than 1,300 tons of ice for cooling baths are being considered to prevent competitors from overheating. Lounges with air conditioning, chilled water, ice packs, portable air conditioners and mist fans will also be provided.

Spectators will be allowed to take plastic water bottles as large as 750 milliliters into arenas, but the committee is still deliberating whether to allow containers made from materials other than plastic. In addition, water fountains will be installed to allow for free refills.

Concerns remain about whether these measures will be enough, as well as how to tailor them to the needs of those who don’t understand Japanese and those with disabilities, Nakamura said.

Additional countermeasures for the heat are being considered for venues with less protection from the sun, including those without roofs. Artificial snow was sprayed on spectators during test events over the summer, but concerns were raised that it made the floor slippery.

Citing an unnamed member of the organizing committee, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported on Friday that the budget for heat countermeasures will likely climb from ¥4 billion to ¥10 billion. Nakamura said he was not aware of such plans.