Warm water at Olympic venue irks swimmers

TOKYO • Athletes have voiced concerns over the water quality and temperature at a marathon swimming test event for next year's Olympics in Tokyo, as officials vowed to monitor the situation at the Odaiba Marine Park closely in the run-up to the Games.

"That was the warmest race I've done," said three-time Olympic medallist Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia after completing the men's 5km competition yesterday.

"It felt good for the first 2km, then I got super overheated."

Japan's Yumi Kida, who finished 12th in the women's 10km event at the 2012 London Games, was also alarmed that "the water temperature was high" .

International Swimming Federation (Fina) rules state that athletes may not race when the water temperature exceeds 31 deg C and executive director Cornel Marculescu said competitors' well-being was their top priority.

An external body would be set up in conjunction with Tokyo Games organisers to monitor both water quality and temperature ahead of the event, he added, and the results could affect the timing of the event.

"Based on this information, we will decide the time the event will start.

"(It) could be 5am, could be 5.30am, can be 6am, can be 6.30am - depends on the water temperature," Marculescu said.

"Working with a specialised company like we are going to do here in Tokyo, we will have the right information to take the right decision."

Issues arising from the hot weather have become the biggest headache for Tokyo organisers, who have already moved up the start time of several events in a bid to mitigate the effects of the blistering heat of the Japanese summer.

In October 2017, Tokyo organisers were also left red-faced after tests at the marine park revealed levels of E. coli bacteria more than 20 times higher than international standards, sparking doubts about the venue's safety.

Underwater "screens" have since been installed to filter the water at the marine park, which will also host the triathlon event.

However, Kida said the water was still "a little stinky", and the clarity "was not very good, so I really want the quality improved".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2019, with the headline 'Warm water at Olympic venue irks swimmers'. Subscribe