TOKYO (AP) — Concerns from the Canada and Sweden soccer teams about Tokyo’s fierce morning heat have resulted in the late rescheduling and relocation of the Olympic women’s final.
Rather than kicking off at 11 a.m. local time Friday in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, the gold-medal match will start at 9 p.m. in Yokohama.
“The change makes absolute sense for what the spectacle can be,” Canada coach Bev Priestman said Thursday, on the eve of the final.
The temperature was forecast to hit 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) in Tokyo on Friday, as well as high humidity.
The match couldn’t be delayed at the Olympic Stadium because the venue it is being used for track and field, so organizers shifted it to the Yokohama stadium which is also hosting the men’s final on Saturday night.
The original morning kickoff in Tokyo was well-placed for primetime audiences on Thursday night in the United States. But the U.S. women’s team lost to Canada in the semifinals and had to settle for bronze.
Canada and Sweden requested earlier in the week that the match be moved out of concern for player safety. The request was only granted late on Thursday, a move made easier because no fans are allowed into the final because of the pandemic restrictions. The new kickoff time is OK for TV audiences in both countries, being 8 a.m. in Ottawa and 2 p.m. in Stockholm.
“It’s going to make for a better game,” Canada defender Ashley Lawrence said.
Sweden is making its second straight appearance in the women’s Olympic final, after losing to Germany in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
Canada, meanwhile, has won bronze medals at the last two Olympics. With a 1-0 victory over the United States in the semifinals, Canada is already assured of either the gold or silver.
“I think for us we were clear that we definitely wanted to change the color of the medal and we knew that was a massive, massive task,” Priestman said. “But I knew that if the group believed when they stepped over the white line we can absolutely do it. We’ve got bags of talent in the team. And for the program, I think it sets us up really nicely to be able to keep pushing forward. But I’m clear that winners win and we’re going into this final to go get a gold medal. ”
The teams met in the round of 16 at the World Cup in France, with Sweden winning 1-0. Canada has not beaten the Swedes since a 1-0 victory in a 2017 friendly.
The timing of the women’s final clashes with the second half of the men’s bronze-medal match between host Japan and Mexico, which kicks off at 8 p.m. in Saitama on Friday.
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