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Olympic marathons to beat the deadly heat with 6am start

The Olympic flag and the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Games
The Olympic flag and the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Games AFP
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Tokyo (AFP)

The 2020 Olympic marathons will start at 6:00 am, organisers confirmed Tuesday, after doctors warned a traditional mid-morning start could lead to deadly medical emergencies in Tokyo's stifling summer heat.

The men's 50km race walk will start even earlier, at 5:30 am, with organisers saying they had taken medical advice into account in timetabling the events.

Other sports, including rugby sevens, triathlon and mountain biking have also seen schedules shifted to avoid the worst of potentially blistering temperatures for the July 24 to August 9 Games.

Games organisers had already announced the marathons would start "between 5:30am and 6am" in the wake of a heatwave that struck the country last summer prompting Japanese medics to warn that running the race in mid-morning could "lead to deaths" from heatstroke.

Last time Japan hosted the Summer Olympics, in 1964, the competition was held in October to avoid the hot summer conditions.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said the possibility of extreme weather conditions, ranging from typhoons to heatwaves, was a "major issue" for the Games and International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach has also voiced concern.

Tokyo has considered a range of options to counteract the heat, including the adoption of daylight saving, a proposal that gained little traction.

But other countermeasures such as solar-blocking paint on roads and mobile misting stations are planned, with Muto admitting that there had been a knock-on impact on the $12.6 billion budget.

There are plans for a special centre to monitor extreme weather and warn of potential emergencies including the risk of heatstroke, even recommending evacuation if necessary.

Head of the IOC Tokyo 2020 coordinating committee John Coates said in a recent visit to Tokyo that medics had recommended "a list of about 20 precautions they think we should take and they are not going to be free".

Last summer, Tokyo sweated through several deadly heatwaves and Japan was also battered by a series of typhoons that caused death, destruction and delay.

At one point, the mercury touched a record 41 Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit). The hottest day of Olympic competition in history was recorded at the 2004 Athens Games when temperatures soared to 36C (97F).

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