Members of the local fire brigade take part in a disaster drill at Sensoji Temple in Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics Photo: AFP/File
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Cyberattacks, terrorism, earthquakes and heatwaves: Tokyo 2020 organizers are hoping for the best but bracing for the worst and making contingency plans for several possible catastrophes during the Games.

Clean, virtually crime-free Tokyo has been spared the terror attacks that have hit many Western cities in recent years, and is considered a relatively safe bet for the Games -- it is often ranked as low-risk by insurance and risk-management firms.

But that security goes out of the window when it comes to hosting the Greatest Show on Earth, says Shiro Kawamoto, counter-terrorism expert and professor of risk management at Nihon University.

"Tokyo's safeness in normal times cannot be taken for granted during the Olympics when the world's attention is on it," Kawamoto told AFP.

So Tokyo is pulling out all the technological stops to bolster safety -- for example, in an Olympic first, introducing a facial recognition system for volunteers.

Organizers are also bracing for a cyberattack similar to that which blighted the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony, where internet and wifi access were brought down.

"We are preparing on the assumption there will be a cyberattack," said Kenji Endo, a senior government official in charge of Tokyo 2020.

The government has set up an elite unit of police and defense ministry experts to counter a possible cyber threat.

For terrorist attacks, Tokyo has not experienced a large-scale atrocity since the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult released Sarin gas on the subway in 1995, killing 13 people and injuring dozens more.

But an attack on New Year's Eve -- where a man deliberately rammed a car up one of Tokyo's best-known streets and injured nine people -- jolted Tokyo out of its complacency.

Counter-terrorism drills are being conducted regularly and officials are urging the public to be vigilant.

With petty crime much lower than in other major capitals, people generally pay little attention to abandoned baggage, for example.

"To avoid a suspicious object in a train suddenly exploding, someone has to spot it and call police or station staff," Kawamoto said.

The ever-present threat of natural disasters is also keeping Olympics officials up at night, with Tokyo being one of the world's most seismically active capitals and Japan battered last year by typhoons and heatwaves.

"As for natural disasters, we think the biggest challenge is to prepare for a big quake that is impossible to predict," said Akio Sato, senior official at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Rigid building codes mean even strong tremors often do little damage but the government estimates up to 23,000 could die if a magnitude seven quake hit Tokyo directly.

Panic and a lack of preparation could cause more unnecessary damage, experts warn.

Mindful that hundreds of thousands will be coming from overseas, the Japan Tourism Agency has upgraded its "safety tips" app with information on major disasters, evacuation shelters and medical organizations.

The 2020 Games will take place "during the most dangerous period -- in the middle of typhoon season," Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, head of a Tokyo environmental organization, told AFP.

Typhoon Jebi pummeled Japan last year, lashing the whole country with ferocious winds and driving rain that killed 11 people.

If similar typhoon-created high tides were to hit Tokyo, the water "will not be gone for about two weeks," said Tsuchiya.

Tokyo's eastern lowlands, where roughly 2.5 million people live, also host Olympic volleyball and swimming venues.

Floodwater could drain into the city's massive subway system and inundate not only transport but also underground malls in other parts of the city, Tsuchiya warned.

In response, Tokyo Metro, the Japanese capital's largest subway operator, has been scrambling to set up watertight doors at some 400 subway entrances in case of flooding.

Organizers have had to take expensive measures to combat the heat during the Games, which are taking place at the height of the sweltering Tokyo summer.

The start time for the marathon has been moved to early morning and organizers plan heat-busting measures such as water-sprinklers along the route, swelling the event's budget.

Authorities should also study "contingency plans including a decision to suspend the event," said Toshitaka Katada, professor of disaster prevention at the University of Tokyo.

"That kind of decision-making tends to be delayed" if not discussed in advance, especially regarding who decides the cancellation and in which circumstances, he said.

Any such decision would be taken by the IOC, while "the Japanese government will give necessary advice over important security issues," said government official Endo.

Tokyo 2020 official Kaho Akiyama said organizers were prepared to deal with a crisis if it arises.

"To help deal with any emergencies, we are preparing evacuation plans for each venue, and are considering the offer of multilingual support to facilitate prompt and smooth evacuation," she told AFP.

? 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


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The government has set up an elite unit of police and defense ministry experts to counter a possible cyber threat.

Being led by a guy who thinks email means "express mail" no doubt!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Any such decision would be taken by the IOC, while "the Japanese government will give necessary advice over important security issues," said government official Endo.

Right, and by the time a consensus was received on what advice to give, snow would be falling in Tokyo!

Forgive my sarcasm here, but there is just too much in this article, based upon experience of living here all these years, that makes me truly fear what is going to happen if for some reason or act of nature a disaster does occur! Planning the Olympics in the middle of typhoon season, and in the dreaded heat of a Tokyo summer is idiotic at best.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I wouldn't put my money on any of these. A more likely candidate would be that either the Okutama reservoir or Tone river would run dry. These are major lines where Tokyo gets much of their water. Just a few years back there were times when both were nearing too low warning levels. So with the Olympics, Tokyo will have many many more toilets flushing and showers running. This issue isn't going to go away either as tourism is expected to substantially grow in the up and coming years. Can you im I don't hear anyone addressing this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Olympics Games are the disaster, every 4 years a new city gets sucked in by the IOC.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Tokyo 2020 preparing for any disaster"

The govt doesn't lie, because it chooses the month of disasters.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The Tokyo Olympics is preparing for any disaster other than:

Extreme heat - inevitable in Summer (could have been dealt with by learning from the October start of the last Tokyo Olympics, but far too many brown envelopes passed);

Transportation - Posters saying "Let's enjoy heartful bearing of delay and crowd" appear to be the only option;

Typhoon - see "Extreme heat" above;

Terrorism/Cyber-terrorism - Just look at Sakurada, for God's sake;

The guaranteed tanking of the economy once this white elephant ups sticks and moves on to its next victim.

Our grandchildren yet unborn will still be paying for this folly, if any of them are still above water in 50 years.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Derek Grebe, why would Japanese people tolerate the stupid govt ? Simply shifting the time by one month, 90% disasters will no longer exist.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

After reading this article I think I will give it a miss

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Organizers have had to take expensive measures to combat the heat during the Games, which are taking place at the height of the sweltering Tokyo summer.

The start time for the marathon has been moved to early morning and organizers plan heat-busting measures such as water-sprinklers along the route, swelling the event's budget.

Good grief. How about moving the start time to the middle of October like they did for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics? No good?

Authorities should also study "contingency plans including a decision to suspend the event," said Toshitaka Katada, professor of disaster prevention at the University of Tokyo.

How about suspend all the events until the middle of October? No good?

"That kind of decision-making tends to be delayed" if not discussed in advance...

Good grief...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Derek Grebe, why would Japanese people tolerate the stupid govt ? Simply shifting the time by one month, 90% disasters will no longer exist.

Actually 2 months as August is notorious for typhoons and it actually gets hotter as well!

If they were moved to the end of September into early October it would be close to perfect weather, warm days, cool nights, and less chances of typhoons.

But the World Series and Japan Series would suffer, so, no chance!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Oh, please! The city shuts down when there's a bit of snow.

Yubaru: "But the World Series and Japan Series would suffer, so, no chance!"

Exactly! When Japan 2020 is known as the "Death Olympics", watch how quickly the politicians and others will say, a) It could not have been known how hot it would be, and (b) it was the West's fault -- their broadcasting companies are to blame, not us, the hosts, who made the decision!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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