Sounds of a City, Chapter 1: accelerando

Summer period in Japan is known for its incredibly hot and humid weather as well as for the numerous typhoons that the archipelago endures.  

In 2019, Faxai, who hit the country on 9th September, was the strongest so far. This powerful typhoon was the cause that three people lost their life, about 40 got injured, some ten thousand homes were damaged and hundreds of thousands households in Kantō area, notably in Chiba Prefecture, were left for weeks without water and power. Although the high-risk season should now be over, a new typhoon had gained power over the past days and reached Tōkyō megapolis on Saturday night. 

Because of approaching Hagibis, for the first time in Rugby World Cup history, games got cancelled. The Rugby World Cup is a national event, which takes place in different parts of the host country. So, World Rugby and the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee decided past Thursday to drop the game between New Zealand and Italy in Toyota, between England and France in Yokohama and on Sunday between Namibia and Canada in Kamaishi because of concerns over the anticipated impact of the storm. As it is the tournament rules, each of the teams was awarded two points and all fans with tickets were promised to get a full refund. Due to that decision, Italy was automatically eliminated. 

The 2020 Tōkyō Olympic Games will be held from 24th July to 9th August, about the warmest period in Japan, and with the Paralympic Games from 25th August to 6th September, it is very probable that at some point during the sporting event a typhoon will make landfall. In contrast to the Rugby World Cup, the Games are assigned to a city and are therefore carried out in a restricted geographical zone. As a result, the weather condition can become a main concern. In order to prevent athletes and audience from the intense heat, competitions such as the marathon were rescheduled to early morning, and trials with large-scale misting towers and artificial snow on tribunes were made. Those operations come at a cost and increase the currently at USD 13 billion stated event’s budget. The consequences are to be covered by the Japanese capital.

The Tōkyō 1964 Games were held from 10th to 24th October (Olympics) and from 8th to 12th November (Paralympics) which seems a reasonable period. The main reason why the 2020 Games were scheduled for this rather inconvenient time of the year, is simple albeit fundamental: as a matter of fact, the summer months mark the off-season of American broadcasting, which is an important source of income for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Indeed, NBCwho actually televised its first Olympic Games in 1964 from Tōkyō, declared to shift about USD 1.45 billion for the upcoming event, which is more than for any in the past. 

The machinery of mega-events is big, and the interest of many people are involved. Yet, it seems as if sometimes reality is neglected by decision makers. 

With wind gusts up to 216 kilometres per hour, a whole day of tremendous rainfall and an earthquake of a magnitude of 5.7 at its landfall, Hagibis’ arrival was spectacular. So far, at least 11 people have died, more than 100 got injured, flights and trains got cancelled, many rivers got flooded, about 7 million people got evacuation orders and in the Tōkyō Metropolitan area over 240,000 homes are without electricity. 

As uncomfortable as Hagibis was for me as an individual, as much as I take of a positive experience. Coming from an environment which is seldom facing natural threats such as typhoons, my idea of its impact on a city was quite abstract. 

By this means, Hagibis has remarkably helped me relate theoretical knowledge to reality and has showed me how few control human beings have in such situations. Having felt this strength of nature, I could not even have considered to participate at any sports competition yesterday, and like many people who were in the Japanese capital, I was absorbed by the thought of the amount of water I had in stock or the consideration of which tree or utility pole could possibly first hit the house. 

Nevertheless, these thoughts were in my case needless, and I am lucky enough to publish this report today.    

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