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Natural Disasters Complicating Plans for 2020 Olympics

19 Sep, 2018

By: Michael Popke

There’s no question that the world has been experiencing a large number of natural disasters in recent years, and that is wreaking particular havoc for planners of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. A deadly typhoon and earthquake in early September, along with record-breaking heat and torrential rains that accelerated landslides and a storm surge that submerged Kansai International Airport, have set planners back.

“In Sydney [for the 2000 Summer Games], we had a simulation exercise one week of what could go wrong, but they were all disasters that we dreamt up: a train coming off the rails out in the Blue Mountains, someone bursting through and attacking one of the marathon runners. Those sorts of things,” International Olympic Committee member and top Tokyo planner John Coates recently said in a news conference, according to Reuters. “But you don’t have to dream anything up in this country, it’s very sad to say.”

"What [has] happened … certainly hit home to me — and I know the Organizing Committee — about the further complexity of planning these games," Coates added.

The 2020 Games will be further complicated by the most sporting events ever  at an Olympics (33) and a wide distribution of venues.

While Coates and the IOC can’t control Mother Nature, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the local organizing committee are taking the precautions they can to keep athletes and spectators cool should the weather two years from now continue the trend of brutally hot summers in the city.

Water sprays and extra shade at venues, especially at the urban cluster of venues, are part of the plan, according to AroundTheRings.com. “There has to be more medical people ready at these venues to step in if something happens,” Coates told the Olympic news website. “It’s certainly front of mind for them, I can assure you.”

 Meanwhile, natural disasters have not slowed a development boom triggered by the upcoming Tokyo Games. “Massive real estate projects and infrastructure improvements are expected to renew the capital’s landscape and make Tokyo more accessible and attractive,” according to RethinkTokyo.com, an online guide to Tokyo real estate. “Construction volume took off in 2013, right around the time the city was selected to host the 2020 Olympics.Some worry the boom might end abruptly. But the first Olympics held in Tokyo in 1964 marked the beginning of a new era for Japan after World War II and preceded the Izanagi economic boom (1965-1970) that made Japan the world’s second-largest economy.”

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