TOKYO — Canadian and Swedish team officials have asked organizers to push back the scheduled late-morning kickoff time for the women's soccer final to avoid the searing heat expected Friday at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.
“The COC supports Canada Soccer’s request to change the time of the women’s soccer final," Canadian Olympic Committee chief sport officer Eric Myles said Wednesday in a statement. "It is in the best interest of the athletes.”
The final is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. local time Friday (10 p.m. eastern time on Thursday). The local forecast called for mostly sunny conditions and a high of 34 C, with the humidity expected to make it feel more like the low 40s.
Moving the kickoff to the late afternoon would allow the athletes to play in the shade at the 68,000-seat outdoor stadium, since the sun sets in the early evening this time of year in Tokyo.
The Olympic Stadium is also home to athletics competition, but the first track and field event at the venue on Friday isn't scheduled to begin until 8:25 p.m. A soccer game typically lasts about two hours, but extra time or a penalty shootout could extend play into a third hour.
Fredrik Madestam, the media officer for the Swedish women's national team, said Wednesday that the federation's delegation head confirmed the Swedish national committee had put in a request with the IOC to delay the start.
Marika Domanski Lyfors, the head of Sweden's women's team, said she had discussed the request with FIFA, the sport's governing body.
"It is primarily about the players' health we’re thinking about and trying to change the time of the game," she told Swedish media late Tuesday. "There’s a pretty big difference between playing in the afternoon or evening, and we are very much exposed to the warmth and heat."
Messages left with IOC media relations staff were not immediately returned.
Madestam, who said Lyfors spoke to reporters in Swedish, confirmed the translation.
"If we have to play at 11 o'clock in the morning, then we are prepared, but it would clearly be much better for the performance and the game to have the possibility to play it later," Lyfors said. "Canada have exactly the same opinion."
Canada Soccer issued a brief statement Wednesday.
"Canada Soccer is also in support of changing the kickoff time of the gold medal match at the Tokyo 2020 women's Olympic football tournament to ensure the health and safety of our players," it said.
Canada qualified for its first-ever appearance in the Olympic women's soccer final with a 1-0 victory over the United States on Monday at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium. That game kicked off at 5 p.m. local time.
Sweden defeated Australia 1-0 in the other semi, in a game that kicked off at 8 p.m. Monday local time at International Stadium Yokohama.
Sweden holds the No. 5 position in the latest FIFA rankings, three spots ahead of Canada.
"We definitely have some mixed results against Sweden," Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan said after her team's semifinal win. "Sometimes we win, sometimes we don't get the result that we want.
"It'll be a good match, a good final."
The Canadian team was expected to train and hold a formal media availability on Thursday.
Sweden won silver at the 2016 Games in Rio. Canada won bronze five years ago and also took third place at the 2012 London Games.
The women's bronze-medal game between the U.S. and Australia was scheduled for a 5 p.m. start on Thursday at Kashima.
Both men's medal games were scheduled to kick off at night.
Mexico and Japan will meet for bronze Friday (8 p.m. local) at Saitama Stadium. The men's final between Brazil and Spain will be played Saturday (8:30 p.m. local) in Yokohama.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2021.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press