Dubai: Nothing will be left to chance as Tokyo Olympic Games organisers have tied up with world governing body World Athletics (WA) to ensure a “clean marathon” in exactly one year’s time in Japan.
The move comes as part of World Athletics’ clean air initiative and its ongoing research into athletic performance in extreme environments.
Earlier this week, staff from the WA’s Health and Science department recorded environmental and air quality data along the Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathon course in Sapporo, Japan, earlier this week — exactly one year before the men’s race is scheduled to take place.
On the invitation of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games organisers, the Health and Science department director Dr Stephane Bermon and department manager Dr Paolo Emilio Adami surveyed the course on electric bicycles with one of them carrying a portable Kunak Air Mobile Air Quality Station.
Research in the past has shown that ingredients in the air such as levels of PM2.5 and PM10 particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide have had a strong impact on health and athletic performance. In addition, temperature and relative humidity were also monitored, and all the data that was sampled every 10 seconds, and stored in a secure cloud for further analysis.
The researchers used a black bulb equipped with thermal sensors for the first time. This was installed on the front of the bike to enable the calculation of wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT) that gives an index of heat stress on the athletes.
The initial findings are preliminary, but Dr Adami admitted that the early indicators are positive.
“The wet bulb globe temperature that we monitored so closely at the World Athletics Championships in Doha was just perfect here, on average 16.4C to 17C, well within the Category 1 white safe area,” Dr Adami told the official Tokyo Games website.
More than 15,000 data points were collected over three hours, each of them linked to its coordinates, that will help WA researchers to better understand the air quality and heat that athletes would be exposed to, along the course, if there were no traffic restrictions.
“If the conditions are the same next year, the athletes will have a great race,” Dr Adami hoped.
“The section of the course that goes through the Hokkaido University Park is beautiful, shaded, between lily ponds and small creeks. That’s the part of the course where the WBGT is lower due to the trees. In general, the air quality was very good and it reflected a normal urban environment with regular traffic conditions,” he added.
The next step of the study will be the reconstruction of the GPS data to allow a more detailed analysis of the course with more spatial resolution.
Working in partnership with UN Environment (UNEP), the WA clean air initiative kicked off in September 2018 when the first air quality monitoring device was installed at the Stade Louis II in Monaco, followed by similar installations at stadiums in Addis Ababa, Sydney, Mexico City and Yokohama.
That project will link many WA-certified tracks around the world to create a real-time global air quality database. Monaco’s Herculis Diamond League — in collaboration with the Monegasque Government, WA and Stade Louis II — was the first athletics meeting to display live air quality data.
Not only can it be used by athletes to determine the best times to train, it will also make athletes and spectators aware of air quality conditions as they prepare for the event.
Present on all five continents, the project ventured outside of stadiums for the first time at the Telcel Mexico City Marathon in August 2019 where the project hit the streets running. Later WA monitored conditions at the EDP Valencia Marathon in December and the Marrakech Marathon in January.