Planning for spectator thermal comfort and health in the face of extreme heat: The Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathons

Jennifer K. Vanos, Eichi Kosaka, Akiko Iida, Makoto Yokohari, Ariane Middel, Ian Scott-Fleming, Robert D. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The 2020 Olympic Games marathon will be run through the streets of Tokyo on the mornings of August 2nd and 9th, a time of year that is typically hot, sunny, and humid. Few studies have assessed the potential impact of extreme heat along the marathon course to understand the multiple factors (e.g., radiation, wind flow) affecting human thermal comfort (TC) as influenced by urban design and vegetation. The current research establishes a baseline of microclimate conditions and scenarios to estimate the projected TC along the marathon route for spectators. Mobile microclimate data (air and surface temperatures, solar radiation, humidity, wind speed) were collected along the marathon course over 15 periods in the summer of 2016 and aligned with sky view factors (SVF). Human energy budget modeling was applied to provide spatially-explicit heat budget and TC information along the route. Conditions are expected to create the most discomfort along open, sun-exposed locations, with ~50% of the area along the second half of the course resulting in ‘Hot’ (budget > 200 W m−2) or ‘Very hot’ (budget > 295 W m−2) conditions. The heat strain index frequently rises above 80% in these locations, with high humidity and low wind flow exacerbating discomfort. Buildings and trees producing a low SVF over roads and sidewalks protect spectators from the morning radiant heat, but such locations should be balanced with wind flow to optimize comfort. The modeling and spatial information can aid in preparing for and mitigating heat stress during the Olympics. Potential solutions can be implemented in collaboration with local organizers and government. This ‘research through design’ strategy can aid in preparing for and mitigating heat illness during the Olympics. Knowledge gained can be extended to other areas of Tokyo to reduce urban heat, and further provide targeted guidance for effective environmental cooling techniques for human health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)904-917
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 20 2019


  • Extreme heat
  • Heat stress
  • Olympics
  • Public health
  • Thermal comfort
  • Urban design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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