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COVID-19 delays, warmth and now a storm: 2020 Olympics go on

Tokyo’s grueling heat may subside this week — but a typhoon is on the way.

The 2020 Summer Olympics, beleaguered by delays, pandemic restrictions and skyrocketing temperatures, now has to contend with a massive rainstorm arriving Tuesday morning that is set to disrupt a number of competitions. 

“Feels like we’re trying to prepare for bloody everything,” New Zealand rugby sevens player Andrew Knewstubb griped. 

Hosts of the summer games said the incoming typhoon is akin to a mid-grade tropical storm, common in the southeastern US, and isn’t expected to wreak much havoc. 

“It is a tropical storm of three grade out of five, so you shouldn’t be too much worried about that, but it is a typhoon in Japan interpretation,” said Tokyo Games spokesperson Masa Takaya.

“This is the weakest category, but this is still a typhoon so we should not be too optimistic about the impact of the course.”

Players cool down in the hot weather at Ariake Tennis Park.REUTERS

Tropical Storm Nepartak was barreling northwest over the Pacific Ocean east of Japan late Monday local time with an expected landfall Tuesday afternoon, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. Strong winds, high waves, and up to 5.9 inches of rainfall are expected, the agency said. 

A number of archery, rowing, and sailing matches have adjusted their Tuesday schedules ahead of the storm, Takaya confirmed, adding no other changes were expected. 

“We’ve heard that storm could be anything from rain or 80-mph wind,” said Jack Williams, representing USA Archery, after a number of matches were rescheduled from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday or Thursday. 

Tropical Storm Nepartak is expected to hit near Tokyo, Japan this Tuesday.Weather Underground

“Unless there’s lightning, right here, we’ll shoot it. We’ll deal with whatever it’s going to be. Rain just starts to suck in general,” added teammate Brady Ellison. 

Sports like beach volleyball will play in everything but lightning — both the women’s final at the Beijing Games and the men’s final at the Rio Games were played in heavy rain — and Ariake Tennis Park’s center court has a retractable roof that can be used for bad weather. 

“They can move every match, I think, if there is really going to be a typhoon with rain,” Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 tennis player in the world, said.

Mathias Fluckiger of Team Switzerland celebrates winning a silver medal and cools down to refresh during the Men’s Cross-country race.Getty Images

“We never know. I guess they will maybe try to move six matches, but it depends how long the matches will be.”

The expected typhoon comes after days of oppressive heat that was so bad, athletes complained it was impacting their performance and ability to compete. 

“It is like paddling in bathwater,” said Jessica Fox, an Australian canoeist and the gold medal favorite in the kayak slalom. 

Monaco’s Quentin Antognelli cools down after competing in the men’s single sculls quarterfinal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo on July 25, 2021.AFP via Getty Images

Iga Swiatek of Team Poland attempts to keep cool between games during her Women’s Singles Second Round match in tennis.Getty Images

Russia’s Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed from heatstroke on the first day of archery, Medvedev said his first-round match over the weekend was “some of the worst” heat he ever played in and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova resorted to shoving bags of ice up her skirt. 

Takaya said the weather challenges are just part of the reality of Olympic competitions and the team has to be flexible for whatever comes their way. 

“I mean, you know, we’re supposed to react to any situation, that’s one of our jobs,” he said. “This is absolutely a regular exercise we have to face.”

Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed from heatstroke in the archery competition amid the high temperatures in Tokyo.Getty Images

Japan has faced criticism over the boiling temps after officials appeared to downplay the severity of July and August’s heat and humidity during the bidding process, calling the conditions mild and ideal. 

In the daytime, the mercury regularly hits 95 degrees Fahrenheit and, at times, skyrockets past 104. 

While the typhoon has led to cancellations and general chaos for most athletes, there is a silver lining. The storm is shaping up to be a welcomed event for surfers after the competition was postponed twice on Monday due to low tide. 

A girl covers her head to cool down as she walks next to police officers and security personnel outside a torch kiss event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay celebration at Shinagawa Central Park in Tokyo Japan, July 21, 2021. REUTERS

Ball retrieval volunteers use fans to cool down at halftime during a soccer match on July 25, 2021.REUTERS

Waves crash against Tsurigasaki Beach during surfing at the Olympics.REUTERS

As long as Nepartak doesn’t hit Tsurigasaki beach directly, it could bring waves twice as high as expected. 

“As a homeowner I say, ‘Oh no, stay away!’” Kurt Korte, the official Olympic surfing forecaster, said. 

“But as a surfer, ‘OK, you can form if you stay out there,’ Everybody can agree a storm out in the distance is the best.”

With Post wires

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