With the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony on July 23, 2021, fast approaching, yet another change will impact the international event in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During all medal ceremonies, Olympians will place medals won around their own necks. Functionally, this will make the ceremonies fully contactless — there will be no handshakes or hugs either, per the Associated Press.
There are 339 medal ceremonies scheduled on the Olympic program in Tokyo. Traditionally, athletes standing on the podium lower their heads, and a medal would be placed around their neck by “an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member or a leading official in a sport’s governing body.” In Tokyo, athletes who reach the podium will be presented their medal on a tray placed there by someone wearing disinfected gloves, according to IOC President Thomas Bach.
Additionally, wearing masks during medal ceremonies will be mandatory for medalists and ceremony officials.
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No Spectators, Faux Noise
On March 20, 2021, the IOC, International Paralympic Committee (IPC), and the Japanese government determined that the risk of allowing international spectators into the country to watch the Games would be too dangerous. According to Worldometers, as of July 15, 2021, there have been 827, 772 cases of COVID-19 in Japan have resulted in 14,990 deaths — a death rate of 1.8 percent. On Monday, July 12, 2021, the Japanese government placed Tokyo under its fourth COVID-19 state of emergency to quell the resurgence of the airborne disease.
As there will be a lack of spectators at the Olympic events, an “immersive sound system will try to create an atmosphere for the athletes in the stadiums and venues.” That means that audio of crowds recorded from the same event from previous Olympic Games will be “fed into the arena as one of several ways to support the athletes.”
Let the Games Begin
The competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games kicks off on July 24, 2021, following the opening ceremony on July 23. The Games will last through August 8, 2021. In addition to the changes to medal ceremonies being contactless and the lack of international spectators, athletes are prohibited from kneeling or protesting at Olympic venues, including medal ceremonies and fields of play.
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