Rugby World Cup organizers prepared for natural disasters

Rugby World Cup organizers are prepared for the possibility of typhoons, which forced the postponement of last July’s J. League clash between Nagoya and Sapporo, to strike during the group stage.

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With the final countdown to this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan well under way, organizers are focusing their efforts on contingency planning in the notoriously earthquake and typhoon-prone country, tournament director Alan Gilpin told AFP.

Japan is especially vulnerable to extreme weather in September, when the tournament will be in full swing, he noted.

In September last year, one typhoon knocked out Kansai International Airport and another lashed the whole country, forcing authorities to take the highly unusual step of canceling public transport in Tokyo.

That month, a strong earthquake also rocked the northern island of Hokkaido, killing dozens and knocking out power.

“A lot of what we will do in the coming six months is contingency planning,” Gilpin said in an interview, adding organizers needed to plan for eventualities such as losing a stadium or major transport hub at the height of the tournament.

“It would appear that it’s that first period of the tournament — when it is still typhoon season — that we’re likely to have some issues. That is the busiest part of the tournament so we’ve got to be ready.”

One year after typhoon Trami lashed Japan, the equivalent weekend in 2019 will see five games across the country, including the blockbuster Australia-Wales encounter in Tokyo and Japan taking on high-flying Ireland, Gilpin noted.

However, he stressed it was possible to make plans even for the vagaries of the weather and seismic activity.

“Our view is that you can plan for it. You’ve just got to make sure you’ve worked through all those different permutations,” he said.

Knockout matches can be postponed but the pool schedule is too packed for this, meaning that an apparent mismatch such as New Zealand-Namibia could be declared a draw if the elements intervene.After some initial worries over preparations for the first World Cup held outside a traditional rugby stronghold, Gilpin said his concerns had been addressed.

“We will have taken the sport forward more than we would have done in England or New Zealand or France and that is why we’re here.”

The rugby hierarchy aims to use the World Cup as a springboard to promote the game throughout Asia and announced last month they had hit a target of 1 million participants in a continent seen as a huge growth area.

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