Risks of Sizzling Hot Olympics Trials Reflect Olympics Risks By Rachel Werner

 Risks of Sizzling Hot Olympics Trials Reflect Olympics Risks

By Rachel Werner

During the past few months, the western coast of the United States has been suffocated by a heat wave of historic proportions. Temperatures have soared into the hundreds, even in non-arid regions, such as Seattle. These high temperatures are causing problems and wreaking havoc for many, including those at the track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon.

On a day where temperatures soared to 108 degrees Fahrenheit, the Olympics track and field trials were a nightmare for those competing in outdoor events. Dehydration, cramping, and heat exhaustion are just a few problems that can arise from performing physical activity in high temperatures. Although the event managers attempted to continue the trials despite the heat, the events eventually had to be delayed until the comparative cool temperatures of the evening. 

There was some controversy over the decision to allow the athletes to compete at all, in view of the high temperatures. As a result of the heat, one athlete, Taliyah Brooks, was taken to a hospital and scratched from her events for the day. However, this was not the first time an athlete was affected adversely by the heat. Earlier in the week, another athlete, Alicia Monson, was also hospitalized as a result of the high temperatures. In view of this hospitalization and the fact that temperatures were much higher on the track than in the stands, it seems strange that the meet was initiated at all. When the trials were postponed, both athletes and spectators were directed to leave, implying that both parties had been at risk from the weather conditions. 

In an Olympics so hounded by misfortune, unusual weather patterns seem to be simply following the pattern of unfortunate occurrences. Interestingly, the decision to continue these trials despite obvious risks mirrors the decision to hold the Olympics this year. To many, the choice to hold the trials at all seems both strange and dangerous; however, it is possible that this choice reflects a problematic mixture of ideas and motivations. 

Money is the biggest motivation in both instances. It is especially important when considering the occurrence of the Olympic games, even without fans present. After all, the Japanese government has spent millions of dollars preparing for the Olympic games. To cancel them now, especially after their postponement in 2020, could be disastrous for many industries who hoped to recoup losses from last year. Television contracts will also bring in massive amounts of money for the Olympics, advertisers, and countries. In the United States, the trials in Eugene were televised. To cancel them would have been to also cancel scheduled advertising and lose possible income. As it is, there was too much money connected with both events for them to be easily canceled. 

A second issue that led to both the games’ and the trials’ occurrence is more an ideological one than a practical one. Perhaps the occurrence of the Olympic trials despite a dangerous environment reflects on some attitudes that are present even today in the Olympic movement. Although the founders of the modern Olympics hoped to reflect a world too wise for war, the games have often been used to express broader and more serious conflicts, whether those be ideological or actual. Many countries have sought to use the Olympics as a showcase for national power and superiority, representing Olympians as “soldiers” fighting for a cause. This line of thought would further imply that, as fierce competitors, athletes should simply push through any discomfort they might feel as a result of weather conditions. Problematic though this ideology might be, many will expect Olympians to do just as their predecessors did long ago--fight a battle, although this time with nature as the opponent.

With the Olympics nearly over, athletes, coaches, broadcasters, and government officials are left to ponder whether the risks were worthwhile. This Olympics has not been free from trouble; after all, at their start, several athletes quickly tested positive for Covid, with some stars completely withdrawing as a result of positive tests. Here is yet another environmental challenge that Olympians were expected to overcome. With motivations fueled by money and antiquated ideas, the IOC and Olympics organizers have been expecting athletes to face a challenge that could still prove to be as dangerous as competing in scorching heat.