A Russian archer fainted during Olympic qualifying as intense heat in Tokyo was in the spotlight just hours before the Games officially open.
Svetlana Gomboeva, 23, collapsed while checking her scores. She regained consciousness and left on a stretcher. Earlier this week experts said Tokyo’s heat and humidity could pose a significant threat to competitors.
The Japanese Environment Agency has issued heatstroke alerts, warning the public not to exercise outside. “It turns out that she couldn’t stand a whole day out in the heat,” said Russian Olympic Committee coach Stanislav Popov.
“This is the first time I remember this happening. In Vladivostok, where we were training before this, the weather was similar. But humidity played a role here.”
With temperatures of around 33C in the archery dome on the first day of competition on Friday, athletes had challenges with hydration and staying cool, while support staff huddled in shaded areas.
There have also been reports of beach volleyball players complaining that the sand is too hot for their feet and officials having to hose down the courts.
When the Olympic games were last held in Tokyo, in 1964, they were pushed back to autumn to avoid high temperatures.
This time around, the marathon and race-walking events have been moved to the cooler city of Sapporo, while a range of other measures, including mist-spraying stations for Olympic horses and cooling vests for referees, have been employed to help reduce the risks to athletes.
Meanwhile, rowers had to battle blustery conditions as racing got under way on Friday at the Sea Forest Waterway.
“In some respects, it’s really nice that the wind can be this strong and the water stays very row-able,” said Britain’s John Collins, 32, who advanced to Sunday’s double sculls semi-finals.
“I remember thinking back to Rio [2016 Olympics], a butterfly flapped its wings on one side of the lake and it was unrow-able on the course. This is a bit of a relief in that respect.”
The heat is another proposition, though, with Collins’ team-mate Graeme Thomas adding the duo had used ice packs and air conditioning to combat the sweltering conditions.
“It’s been a little bit of a shock to the system, it’s always a difficult one with getting the air conditioning right back in the room,” said Thomas, 32.
“How cold do you want it? You can get a little bit light-headed going from the cold to the hot.”
Not only is this a hot period, it is also the time of year when typhoons normally hit Japan.
One sport could in fact benefit from this with surfing enjoying the upside of large waves.
“There’s going to be good waves, there’s a strong typhoon here off the coast of Japan and we know that the waves are getting bigger,” International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre said.
Surfers – whose sport is making its Olympic debut – were concerned weak waves would make it difficult to showcase their skills to a wider audience, when competition begins on Sunday in Tsurigasaki, 40 miles east of Tokyo.
“The waves have been a little bit small so far, but there’s a really good swell on the way, looking like some great winds for maybe Monday, so that should give us a good platform to showcase for the world what it’s all about,” added New Zealand coach Matt Scorringe.