Tokyo Olympics 2020: Medalists get new right to pose for mask-less photos in spite of COVID-19 risk

Lo Chia-Ling of Taiwan celebrates winning bronze in the Women’s Taekwondo Featherweight 49-57kg event. Some medalists ignored the order from organizers to wear masks for the entire podium ceremony but now the IOC is easing restrictions. Image Credit: Reuters

Tokyo: Athletes who won medals on the opening weekend of the Tokyo Olympics also helped earn a photogenic victory for others to share in the next two weeks.

Some medalists ignored the order from organizers to wear masks for the entire podium ceremony. Seeing the pushback, the International Olympic Committee later agreed to ease its strict pre-Games rule designed to help protect against the coronavirus.

“Victory ceremony protocol has been adapted to allow athletes to have an image for the media that captures their faces and their emotions during a unique moment in their sporting career,” the IOC said today.

Curb on hugs

Earlier in the day, Olympic organizers were still urging medalists to obey all the original rules. That meant curbing hugs, wearing masks and not gathering on the top step for a group photograph.

“It’s not a ‘nice to have,’ it’s a ‘must have,’” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said of masks at the daily news conference held each morning in Tokyo. “We feel for the athletes (but) there are things that unfortunately we have had to make stricter.”

Hours later, the rules were amended while still following scientific advice, the IOC said.

Medalists now have a 30-second photo opportunity after the gold medalist’s national anthem is played to remove their masks while staying on their own podium step.

New rules

“At no point during this limited time should the athletes be invited to join each other on the gold-medal platform,” the IOC said in a statement explaining the new rules. “The silver and bronze medalists join the gold medalist on the latter’s platform for a photo opportunity with masks on.”

Still, the women’s cycling road race medalists joined each other in a happy, mask-less photo on the podium outside Tokyo at Fuji International Speedway today.

Also today, the Tokyo organizing committee’s tally of games-related COVID-19 infections in Japan this month rose to 137, including 14 athletes.