Since August 2018, Professor Sébastien Racinais and his team have been working behind the scenes to help you prepare for the hot and humid conditions of Tokyo 2020.
Prof. Sébastien explains how important it is that you have acclimatised well before the Games begin and the legacy his working group hope to leave.
Check out the IOC Working Group’s advice on how you can prepare to beat the heat at Tokyo 2020.
I’m originally from France, where I studied for my PhD in Sports Science, and I spent four years moving around the world in warm, tropical areas. I’ve now been in Qatar for more than 13 years, where I’m Head of Research at Aspetar and currently working on the effect of heat on the human body.
I was named Chair of the IOC Adverse Weather Impact Expert Working Group in August 2018. This is a group that has been meeting regularly every four to six weeks online and is in charge of making recommendations and taking decisions to optimise your health and performance in the hot and humid environment of Tokyo.
Supporting athletes and entourage
Our working group consists of 10 international experts from various parts of the world. We have also regularly invited specialists, academics and medical doctors to specific meetings when we’ve needed to address certain areas and topics.
Our first priority is you, the athlete, but we are also supporting the health of your entourage, all working venue staff and the spectators. This includes schedule changes to avoid the hottest parts of the day and allowing spectators to bring their own drinks into the venue.
We have drawn upon the competencies of a range of experts in our efforts to ensure you, and those supporting you, receive the best care before, during and after Tokyo.
PREPARATION IS ABSOLUTELY VITAL, AND ACCLIMATISATION IS THE FIRST, MOST IMPORTANT COUNTERMEASURE YOU CAN TAKE NOW. IT SHOULD BE YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.
PROFESSOR SÉBASTIEN RACINAIS
Success is in your hands
While we are equipped in the prevention and treatment of any adverse reactions to the heat during Tokyo, what we want you to know is that everything is in your hands. How you prepare in the build-up to the Games could be the difference between you reaching the podium and missing out. Preparation is absolutely vital, and acclimatisation is the first, most important countermeasure you can take now. It should be your number one priority.
For example, a lot of athletes are used to doing altitude training before a major event, especially endurance athletes. But altitude training will change your performance by one or two per cent. It may be the difference between the podium and missing the podium in normal conditions. But when you are in the heat, the acute effect of heat will decrease your performance by around 15 per cent. So if you do not recover those 15 per cent first, the one or two per cent you will get with altitude training will be totally useless.
By acclimatisation, we mean that you expose yourselves to the heat by training in similar conditions. The human body has an excellent capacity to adapt to the heat, so working on this now will strengthen your chances of performing at your highest level and could be the key to your success.
Once you are prepared, then you can work on the details. You can then work on your pre-cooling plan. You can work on your mid-cooling plan. You can work on your hydration plan. But your chances of competing for a medal really do rest in your preparations. It is long before Tokyo 2020 begins that your most important work will take place.
Leaving a legacy
Our job will not be finished come the end of Tokyo. After the Closing Ceremony, we will follow up on everything that we have learned to ensure you continue to compete in a safe environment. The Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026 will be in hot and humid conditions again, as will Los Angeles 2028, so our work does not end in Tokyo.
With the knowledge gained from these Games, we plan to leave a legacy that is self-sufficient for future events and means we may not need such a working group again. It is our hope that our legacy provides a single, uniform heat policy for all international federations, and conclusive rules and recommendations that will continue to protect you for the entirety of your sporting career.
THE HUMAN BODY HAS AN EXCELLENT CAPACITY TO ADAPT TO THE HEAT, SO WORKING ON THIS NOW WILL STRENGTHEN YOUR CHANCES OF PERFORMING AT YOUR HIGHEST LEVEL AND COULD BE THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS.
PROFESSOR SÉBASTIEN RACINAIS