Tokyo 2020: Crowd size cut for sailing event over tsunami fears

The number of spectators at a Tokyo 2020 Olympics sailing event will be slashed over fears too large a crowd could hamper evacuation in the event of a tsunami, organizers said Thursday.

Initially, a maximum crowd size of 5,000 was set for a venue on the Enoshima coast of Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, but that will be cut by over 30% to 3,300, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

“The committee decided to cap the number of spectators to ensure that everyone can be safely evacuated to higher ground or hotels if a disaster strikes. The total figure, including staff and media personnel, will be 5,700,” NHK reported, citing organizers.

Japan sits on the Ring of Fire, a seismically active 40,000-kilometer (25,000-mile) arc from the boundary of the Pacific Plate, to smaller plates such as the Philippine Sea plate, to the Cocos and Nazca Plates that line the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Last year, at least 20 people were killed after a magnitude 6.7 earthquake triggered a landslide in the northern island of Hokkaido.

In 2011, more than 20,000 people died or went missing in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami which struck Fukushima prefecture, while hundreds of thousands more lost their homes.

Experts believe the Tokyo area is due for a major earthquake in the next 30 years.

Concerns over the dangers posed by seismic activity to the 2020 Games were heightened last year when it emerged a leading Japanese hydraulics company had doctored earthquake safety data for buildings across the country, including some Olympic venues.

Local government and Olympic officials have ordered inspections into the venues to ensure they are up to code.

Away from the risk posed by underground events, Tokyo 2020 organizers are also having to worry about the weather above ground. After a brutally hot — and deadly — summer last year, events have been moved to ensure runners and other athletes won’t be exposed to the worst of the midday sun.

Mist spraying devices will also be installed to keep spectators cool.

Tokyo University professor Makoto Yokohari warned last year that the Games could bring “some of the worst conditions in the history of marathon running,” adding “you should never run in this kind of heat and humidity.”