The Tokyo Olympics were held in a historically hot period for the host city. The five hottest days since 1964 fell around the dates for this year’s quadrennial event. This data-driven, visually led piece looked to highlight how heat as well as the outsized humidity of Tokyo over this period could put athletes at an elevated risk for heat illness, and issue further complicated by the ease of confusion for first responders with coronavirus patients due to the similarity of symptoms.
This story drove conversation on how climate change is affecting events like the Olympics where weather conditions can adversely affect athletes and potentially outcomes. In what was one of the hottest Olympics on record and under difficult circumstances, the project drove home how Olympians would be facing one their biggest competitors – the sweltering heat.
D3 for the visualisations with Ai2HTML used with Adobe Illustrator for the illustrations of people and on sweat.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The top scroll section was the hardest part to build and get right. In its first incarnation this was one static graphic with many layers of information packed into it. Unwinding that piece into scrolling steps made the layering of information more digestible for the reader. But figuring out how to make each step easy to follow and making the animations and transitions smooth was a considerable challenge, but ultimately this care and attention to detail helped to accessibly drive home the core of the story.
What can others learn from this project?
It is challenging to distill information down to only what the reader really needs. The illustration explaining how sweat cools the body illuminates how the environment can dictate an athlete’s performance in an accessible way. It is also useful to remember that stories have many strands. Much media attention in the runup to the games was focused on how Japan would navigate ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through the event. This story stepped back from that coverage and looked at another potential health problem at the Olympics.