Heat is on

With soaring temperatures back on the agenda, we take a look at 10 sporting events to have been affected by extreme heat

By Alex Williams.   Last Updated: 04/08/14 1:22pm

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Kenny de Schepper was one of several players to feel the heat at the Australian Open

Kenny de Schepper was one of several players to feel the heat at the Australian Open

Sky Bet

A heatwave Down Under has left players at the Australian Open floundering in temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius.

Searing temperatures at Melbourne Park are nothing new, the tournament being so prone to them it even has an extreme heat policy which allows matches to be halted, although it took until day four for the infernal conditions at this year's event to invoke it.

With the effect that heat has on athletes firmly back on the agenda, we take a look back at 10 of the most unbearably hot sporting events in history.

1924 Olympic cross-country

The summer Olympics has been held in warm-weather cities such as Atlanta, Athens and Los Angeles over the years, but it is the French capital of Paris that boasts possibly the hottest temperatures in the history of the Games. A heat wave in the city nudged the temperature above 40C on the day of the cross-country race in mid-July.

Several competitors were stretchered off the course, while others remained on their feet but were left disoriented. Early leader Edvin Wide collapsed and was taken to hospital. In the end it was Finland, a country known for its distance running prowess but not for exposing its inhabitants to tropical temperatures, who occupied the top two places as the legendary Paavo Nurmi took the gold medal ahead of Ville Ritola.

1934 World Cup final

Inhumane heat in June and July may ultimately force the Qatar World Cup of 2022 to be moved to the winter months, but spiralling temperatures are not new to football's biggest stage. The second World Cup was hosted by Italy, with the final held under the fierce Rome sun on June 10. Temperatures hit 40C for the 5.30pm kick-off between the host nation and Czechoslovakia at the Stadio Nazionale PNF.

The Czechs led with just 10 minutes of normal time remaining, but Raimundo Orsi equalised to force extra-time, something which can't have been appealing to either side given the conditions. It proved a golden period of play for the Italians, however, as Angelo Schiavio grabbed the winner five minutes in.


Thrilla in Manila

One of the most famous sporting occasions of all time, the 1975 clash between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for the world heavyweight title is still celebrated today for its visceral brutality. Held at the Araneta Coliseum in Metro Manila, it was the final bout of the most famous trilogy in boxing history. The fight took place at 10am local time to cater for a prime-time audience in the USA, a peculiarly early start but not early enough to escape the stifling Filipino heat and humidity.

The bout was held indoors but a barely-functioning air-conditioning system, a packed crowd and the intense lights above the ring combined to make conditions almost intolerable. Frazier estimated the in-ring temperature as being as high as 50C. Ali was famously declared the winner when Frazier's trainer Eddie Futch pulled him out prior the the 15th round, the challenger having taken a fierce pummelling. Ali hardly fared much better, collapsing due to exhaustion at the end of the contest.

1984 Dallas Grand Prix

Keke Rosberg stayed cool in the scorching heat of the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix

Choosing one the hottest cities in the USA to host a Formula 1 race in the height of summer always seemed to be a bit of a gamble, and Dallas Grand Prix organisers were repaid with a weekend of memorable chaos in 1984. Initially the drivers' fears centred not on the heat but the shoddy track surface and lack of safety features. Martin Brundle broke both his feet in a practice crash, while on the eve of the race a Can-Am support event chewed up the already fragile tarmac and searing temperatures meant the repair work did not set properly.

The race eventually went ahead despite protests from the drivers, who were already dealing with 40C heat before they put on overalls, a helmet and strapped themselves in in front of a 1.5-litre turbo engine. Nigel Mansell led at the start before giving up top spot to Alain Prost, who seemed set for victory until he clipped a wall ten laps from home. That left Finland's Keke Rosberg, who was wearing a cooling skull-cap, to take the win as Mansell collapsed while trying to push his stricken Lotus across the finishing line.

Australia v Pakistan, first Test (1986)

Test matches on the sub-continent are invariably played in the harshest cricketing conditions possible, but what happened in one such contest in 1986 makes it stand out from the rest. The opening contest of that year's three-Test series between India and Australia was played in Chennai and as often is the case in that part of the world, it was the incredible humidity rather than the pure heat which took its toll.

Australia batted first and were in a good position at the end of day one - 211-2 with Dean Jones unbeaten on 56. However, Jones failed to rehydrate properly overnight and was soon in trouble on an unbearable second day. He vomited more than once out in the middle and at the tea break reportedly lost control of other bodily functions. He wanted to retire but, goaded by captain Allan Border, carried on until he was finally dismissed for 210 after an epic, eight-hour 23-minute knock. He was taken straight to hospital but returned later in the match, which ended as the second-ever tied Test.

Toronto Blue Jays v Texas Rangers (1988)

As shown by Dallas' one and only Formula 1 race, sweltering heat is commonplace in Texas during the summer months, the middle of the baseball season. The Rangers' old home - Arlington Stadium - was invariably the hottest in the MLB and many of the highest temperatures in the history of the league were recorded there.

Arlington Stadium did not have a roof or any sort of overhead shelter, meaning fans and players alike were completely exposed to the baking Dallas heat. But for the joint-hottest game in MLB history the sun strangely proved to be a non-factor as the Rangers faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays in temperatures approaching 43C, at night! In the end it was Toronto who wilted as the Rangers ended the evening with a 5-1 win.

2002 Australian Open women's final

The 2002 Melbourne final between Martina Hingis and Jennifer Capriati was one of the starkest and most dramatic illustrations of how heat can affect the outcome of a sporting event. Hingis, playing in her sixth straight final at the event, looked to be cruising to victory when up a set and 4-0 but succumbed to the scorching temperatures just before the finish line.

With the mercury rising to well over 40C, Capriati fought back and eventually took the second set in a tie-break after saving four match points. A 10-minute interval was allowed between the second and third sets, but it did not help the toasted Hingis, who won just two more games as Capriati pulled off one of the greatest Grand Slam comebacks.

2003 Tour de France

Salt lines Lance Armstrong's mouth after he dehydrated during the 2003 Tour de France

The south of France is known for being fairly warm in July, but in 2003 a European heatwave saw the temperatures soar much higher than usual. Tour de France stages take place through the hottest part of the day due to necessity, meaning there was no place to hide for the peloton. On the ninth stage overall contender Joseba Beloki crashed out after hot road conditions combined with braking friction melted his rear tyre off the rim, leaving Lance Armstrong a clear favourite to win his fifth straight crown.

But if Beloki's crash benefited the American, the unrelenting temperatures between 35-40C did not. Armstrong finished the stage 12 time trial severely dehydrated, with dried salt caking his lips, and was thumped by perennial rival Jan Ullrich. Another bad day followed but Armstrong eventually recovered as the temperatures finally dipped and fought back to take the victory, although it was later stripped when his doping was uncovered.

Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals (2003)

Nowadays the Cardinals are shielded from the fearsome Arizona heat by the domed University of Phoenix Stadium, but from 1988-2005 they played outdoors at Sun Devil Stadium. Even as the NFL season started in end-of-summer September, temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8C) were par for the course.

Such weather was never an appealing prospect for players saddled with elaborate NFL padding, and even less so on September 23, 2003, when the Packers visited on a day where temperatures rose above 41C. The Packers brought a travelling army of fans with them, but they left disappointed as the hosts came away with a 20-13 win.

Badwater Ultramarathon

Extreme heat in sporting events is sometimes unavoidable, but not many organisers seek it out purposefully. The Badwater Ultramarathon does not adhere to such conventions. The 217-kilometre foot race is purposefully scheduled to take place at the hottest time of the year in one of the world's hottest places.

Until this year the brave and/or insane competitors would trek through California's Death Valley, even going past Furnace Creek - the site of the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth (56.7C) - over the course of 24 hours or more. A ban on sporting events in Death Valley means the race no longer goes through there, so temperatures in excess of 50C are possibly a thing of the past due to the new route being at higher altitude.

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