Australian Open: how hot is too hot as temperatures soar?

Organisers branded 'inhumane' as play continues at temperatures of 40C, what do other sports do?

Two girls cool off at the Australian Open
(Image credit: 2014 AFP)

THE organisers of the Australian Open have been criticised for forcing play to continue despite temperatures above 40C, conditions which have been branded "inhumane" by one competitor. Canadian Frank Dancevic made the comment after he collapsed on court on Tuesday during his match against Benoit Paire. A ball-boy also needed medical treatment. But how hot is too hot? Australian Open Tournament referee Wayne McKewen, told the Melbourne Age that temperatures of around 40C alone would not cause play to be suspended. He told the paper: "When you get a high humidity and a high temperature, that's when it starts to affect the players, personnel on-site, spectators, fans." The tournament's medical officer Dr Tim Wood explained that the number of breaks in tennis made it less risky at high temperatures. "Tennis, as a sport, is relatively low risk for major heat problems compared to, in Melbourne, AFL football, compared to continuous running events... The time the ball is in play, [compared with] total time for the match, is relatively small. The amount of heat they produce from muscles exercising is relatively small in terms of what someone continuously exercising will do." Not all the players seem to agree. "Until somebody dies, they're just keep going on with it and putting matches on in this heat," said Dancevic. Caroline Caroline Wozniacki claimed that her water bottle had started to melt, while John Isner said going on court was like opening an oven. World Cup Fifa's decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has proved controversial to say the least. It now seems inevitable that the tournament will have to be moved to the northern hemisphere winter, as temperatures in the Gulf State can reach 50C in the summer, when the World Cup is usually held. However, it is not just in Qatar where the heat puts players at risk. There have been warnings that temperatures in some host cities in Brazil this summer could put the players at risk. Italian coach Cesare Prandelli warned of the risk of heat exhaustion even before the draw for the tournament was made, and Italy were pitted against England in Manaus, an Amazonian city where the temperature is likely to be above 30C and the humidity around 80 per cent. Winter Olympics Sochi in Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics next month, despite the fact that it is a summer resort and could suffer from a lack of snow. There was a similar problem in Vancouver in 2010, when the ski slopes were covered with artificial snow and bordered by mud. However, Vladimir Putin has a plan. "As part of the $50bn cost of the Games, the most expensive Olympics, Russia is using 200 snowmakers drawing water from lakes to create snow,” reported Eurosport late last year. “They also stored round 450,000 cubic metres of 'real' snow," Cycling Heat and humidity can present a problem for some sports, but in cycling they are actively encouraged as a way of ensuring faster times. During the 2012 Olympics in London competitors and spectators in the velodrome sweltered in temperatures of around 30C, but it helped make the velodrome one of the fastest in the world, according to Wired. It certainly worked for the home team as Great Britain won seven of ten gold medals in the velodrome, cheered on by a sweating crowd.

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