Tokyo 2020 medal winners can now briefly go mask-less on the podium

The IOC decides to relax the rule so that athletes could “at least have a picture to remember their amazing performances”.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Triathlon - Men's Olympic Distance - Medal Ceremony - Odaiba Marine Park, Tokyo, Japan – July 26, 2021. Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway poses with his gold medal during medal ceremony. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Triathlon - Men's Olympic Distance - Medal Ceremony - Odaiba Marine Park, Tokyo, Japan – July 26, 2021. Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway poses with his gold medal during medal ceremony. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

Medal winners at the Tokyo Olympics will now be able to go mask-less… at least for a brief time on the podium to record their shining moment in a photo.

The IOC on Sunday decided to relax the rule that requires all athletes, staff and media to wear masks at all venues at all times whether they are inside or outside. That had included the medal ceremonies.

“If I won a gold medal or any medal I would want to celebrate. We can’t allow that unfortunately,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told reporters at the daily press conference on Monday.

Instead, Adams said “The idea is to give those athletes who have been competing, when everyone else has stepped back, the chance to remove their masks for 30 seconds, staying on their steps, for a photo.”

He added that the risk is “very, very, very, very low” and “everyone would also appreciate our attempt to at least allow those athletes that one moment to at least have a picture to remember their amazing performances”.

It might take a little time for everyone to fully understand the new guidelines.

The IOC said the new rules would allow the silver and bronze medalists to join the gold medalist on the latter’s platform for a photo opportunity but only with masks on.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Cycling - Road - Women's Road race - Medal Ceremony - FSW - Fuji International Speedway - Shizuoka, Japan - July 25, 2021. Gold medallist Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria celebrates on the podium with silver medallist, Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands and bronze medallist, Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Cycling - Road - Women's Road race - Medal Ceremony - FSW - Fuji International Speedway - Shizuoka, Japan - July 25, 2021. Gold medallist Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria celebrates on the podium with silver medallist, Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands and bronze medallist, Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

That did not happen at the women’s cycling road race, where the smiling medalists joined together in a mask-less photo on the podium on Sunday.

Getting everyone to wear their masks and embrace the other social distancing requirements remains a work in progress.

Adams admits that the guidelines are not being followed by everyone but reiterated that while it may be difficult “it is really, really important and as I said yesterday and I’ll repeat it this isn’t a nice to have, this is an absolute priority”.

“We need to give everyone confidence, not just our Japanese partners and hosts, but actually all of the other stakeholder groups here and everyone that this is happening.

“We are making a really special effort today again to remind all of our groups and all of our people that they need to wear their masks.”

Previously, the IOC had said that there would be no penalties handed down for failure to follow the guidelines unless the breaches were continuous and blatant.