Tokyo 2020 beach volleyball venue put to test by heat and top stars

Officials positive about location of next Olympic competition as FIVB world tour event plays unofficial test a year before the Games

By Shintaro Kano

Anders Mol and Christian Sorum had heard all the stereotypes about Japan before arriving in Tokyo for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, an official test event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The world’s top-ranked pair from Norway have experienced a few of them firsthand already, from the mouth-watering Kobe beef and sushi to the general politeness of the people and to the ceaseless crowd and traffic at famed Shibuya crossing.

And yes, the heat.

Testing times

“Beat the heat” will be the name of the game for beach volleyballers at Tokyo 2020.

They got a taste of what the conditions will be like next summer after the temperature and humidity shot up at Shiokaze Park, right on the water of Tokyo Bay, where athletes, organisers and spectators alike were put to test.

“It’s really hot. It’s so different to Norway,” Mol told reporters on Saturday (27 July) when he and Sorum advanced to the Tokyo Open men’s final after defeating Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands 2-0.

“It’s really unusual for us to have this humidity. We have the same heat back in Europe but it’s so much more humid and sweaty. It’s a really big difference to Europe. We have to drink a lot more than we’re used to and we’re also sweating a lot more than we’re used to but it’s really good to have these guys who help us with the nutrition thing and how we can do as well as possible in the heat.”

“It’s something we have to bear in mind for next year. It’s going to be maybe the hottest Olympic ever, we’ve been told, but we’re excited for it.”

One year to Tokyo 2020

Anti-heat countermeasures were in full effect at the 2020 Olympic Games venue, where everything from mist sprays to wet scarf-like towels to packs containing natural ice hauled in all the way from Niigata Prefecture were available cost-free for the spectators who turned up on this day.

The Tokyo Open is being held during the same calendar window as the 24 July- 9 August Tokyo Olympic Games.

The actual sand that will be used next year has been used during the five-day Tokyo Open, which concludes Sunday with the finals and third-place matches for both genders.

The Tokyo Open adopted the Olympic Games competition format, featuring 24 teams in six round-robin pools. Sixteen moved on to the single elimination phase to determine the championship.

Beach volleyball’s international governing body, FIVB, has been pleased with this week’s simulation at Shiokaze Park. A typhoon had been forecasted for the weekend but was downgraded to a tropical storm although heavy rain could still hit the venue on Sunday, which could potentially offer the hosts yet another test.

FIVB technical delegate Ed Drakich told Olympic Channel the heat has been a “perfect” test looking ahead to Tokyo 2020, when it is expected to be even hotter than it is now. This week, FIVB has allowed athletes more time than usual between rallies and when switching sides for drinks.

Drakich said it would have been nice to see more fans turn up but the quality of the volunteers working Shiokaze Park made up for the shortage in attendance.

“The venue here, the event is very good. Technically it’s run very well,” Drakich said.

“The stadium looks nice in a very nice location and we’re very excited about the Olympic stadium. The bay here is beautiful.” - Ed Drakich to Olympic Channel.

“There are many, many volunteers working here and the spirit of the volunteers is excellent. The sand is really good – this is going to be the sand they will use at the Olympics – the level of play and athletes are very, very high.”

“Overall, this has been a good event. We would like to see more spectators but we understand beach volleyball is sort of new. We think during the Games it will be a very popular sport.”