TOKYO — Friday’s weather forecast for 11 a.m. here calls for sunshine, temperatures in the low 90s, dew points at 70 or above and a heat index of about 97.
It’s neither an ideal, nor perhaps even safe, condition to play a gold medal soccer game.
The Swedish and Canadian women's soccer teams have both asked the IOC to move the game to a later — and potentially cooler — time but the IOC has thus far rejected the request.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said at a daily briefing Thursday that the organization was “not aware” of any change to the schedule. Well, if they don’t know, who would?
Both teams will have to play under the same circumstances. As such, there isn’t an advantage to one side. And since neither team hails from a humid, tropical climate such as Tokyo, it should be even.
Still, the teams have a point. Who scheduled this thing in the middle of the day when heat and humidity were almost a certainty? Why was this ever considered a good idea? The gold medal game for the men — made up of U-23 players — is set for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. local time.
In international women's soccer there are essentially only two major events each four-year period — the World Cup and the Olympics. As such, in a game of this magnitude, why not create the best opportunity for the best play?
“It is primarily about the players’ health we’re thinking about and trying to change the time of the game,” Swedish coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors told Reuters. “There’s a pretty big difference between playing in the afternoon or evening, and we are very much exposed to the warmth and heat.”
The final is set to be played at Olympic Stadium. It can't be moved to night time because the track and field meet is scheduled there at that time.
However, the game could be moved to any of the other five venues used for men’s and women’s soccer during these games. That, most notably, includes Yokohama Stadium which will host the men’s final on Saturday.
Since no fans are allowed to attend any event at these Olympics, that isn’t an issue. And no fans means far fewer stadium personnel and security. This may not be a simple task, but it’s a sensible one. There has to be a soccer field somewhere around here that can handle a, say, 9 p.m. start.
In an effort to avoid the brutal summer conditions, the IOC already moved the marathon and race walking competitions to 7 a.m. and to Sapporo in the cooler, northern part of the country.
The tennis competition was also moved to later in the day — matches starting at 3 p.m. rather than 11 a.m. after Spanish player Paula Badosa left her match in a wheelchair and Russia's Daniil Medvedev told the umpire, “I can finish the match, but I can die.”
Why not do the same for women’s soccer? Why do they get the mid-day start but the U-23 men get night time? Why not respect the magnitude of the match, seek out the best conditions possible for optimum play and consider the wishes of the players, coaches and officials?
The IOC isn’t saying. And apparently isn’t budging.
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