Great Britain doesn’t want its Olympic athletes taking any risks heading into a 2020 summer games that is expected to be hot.
The healthy initiatives include avoiding sitting near airplane toilets on the way to Tokyo, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation.
“We don’t want people to bag our seats so I won’t go into specifics, but not near the toilet,” said Craig Ranson, the director of athlete health at the English Institute of Sport. “[We teach athletes] about how they can clean their seat in the plane and where to sit in the plane so the air-conditioning leaves them less exposed to bugs from other people in the plane.”
Where athletes are sitting, what they’re eating and how they’re washing their hands is all crucial when the pinnacle of their athletic lives only happens for one month every four years. Health is even more crucial due to the close proximity of athletes in the Olympic Village.
“When athletes are in camps or during Games time, if one gets a cold they can all get a cold,” Ranson said, noting that the British Olympic Association pays acute attention to the details. “It’s about teaching some really basic things to avoid that cross-infection.”
Ranson said that illness prevention campaigns paid dividends last January, which typically has high levels of illnesses due to the holidays. The British Olympic Association was able to decrease the number of illnesses in 2019.
“We ran an illness prevention campaign around keeping airways moist, and hygiene, healthy recipes from our nutritionists, and, whether it was a direct result or not, we had 40% fewer illnesses last January than previously,” Ranson said.
The International Olympic Committee is addressing several health concerns heading into the Olympics. The IOC announced in October that the marathon and race walk events have been moved from Tokyo to Sapporo to avoid high temperatures. Start times have also been moved to avoid the heat of the day, including long-distance races moving to the evenings, rugby games being played in the morning and mountain biking starting later in the afternoon.
The IOC is also focused on implementing better shade, water sprays, access to water and an Athlete365 campaign called “Beat the Heat.”
The Associated Press has reported that a number of swimmers and coaches are asking to move the open-water swimming events out of Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Bay due to high water temperatures, E. coli levels and bad odors.
“Here’s the reality,” United States open water coach Catherine Kase told the Associated Press. “If a marathoner faints or passes out, they may get a few bumps and bruises. If the same thing happens to an open-water swimmer, the result could be lethal.
“For all open-water swims, alternative plans should be made in case environmental factors make the swim unsafe forcing it to be canceled or curtailed. “We would like to push for a viable back-up plan. The straightforward answer is that we are not comfortable with the Odaiba venue. … Our athletes shouldn’t have to worry about health concerns as they’re preparing to compete in the race of their lives.”