Japan Mulls Daylight Savings to Save Olympics From Summer Scorch

(Bloomberg) -- Japan is considering implementing daylight savings time in 2019 and 2020 to cope with the intense summer heat, after soaring temperatures this year cast doubt over the ability of the country to safely host the 2020 Olympics, the Sankei newspaper reported.

The government and ruling parties are seeking to pass a bill this autumn, according to the report, which cited unidentified government officials. Under the plan, clocks would be pushed forward two hours in June, July and August for a test period in 2019 and then again in 2020 for the Olympics.

The Games start on July 24 and the plan would allow the marathon event, scheduled to start at 7 a.m., to effectively begin at 5 a.m. when temperatures are coolest.

Japan had a deadly heatwave of record proportions this summer, raising concerns over the risk of heatstroke for athletes and volunteers. More than 57,000 people have been hospitalized with heatstroke, with more than 120 deaths in the three months through the end of July, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Consumption Boost

The government has not decided on any such plan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news briefing today, but it is working on various ideas, such as moving event times earlier, to combat the heat.

Even prior to the winning the Olympics, Japan has debated the benefits of such a move for years, as shifting clocks forward has potential for positive economic effects.

“Recreational services, food and hotel industries would mainly benefit” from the plan, said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute. The plan could see an economic benefit of up to 700 billion yen ($6.3 billion) through boosted consumption, he said, although software problems and the struggle of people to adapt their biological clocks could have an adverse impact.

Japan briefly had daylight savings during the postwar U.S. occupation. After the 2011 earthquake and subsequent power shortages, the government considered adopting it again, but it never happened.

In 2013 Naoki Inose, then-Governor of Tokyo, proposed permanently moving the country’s time zone two hours to better align global markets. In a post on Twitter last month he criticized the suggestion of a Olympics-only summer time as “random and lacking thought.”

During Japan’s last turn hosting the Olympics in 1964, the games were held in October, when Tokyo’s weather is markedly cooler. But the expensive fees paid for TV rights to the event make moving the schedule difficult, especially as a broadcast outside of summer would clash with other sporting events.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.