The International Olympic Committee has announced new provisions for the victory ceremony at the Tokyo 2020 Games in order to stay in line with the ever-evolving state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. The IOC press release which can be accessed here stipulates a series of guidelines that will be followed while awarding medals to the podium finishers this summer:
- Athletes, presenters, and volunteers will wear masks at all times.
- Additional podium modules will be placed between gold and silver. medallists and gold and bronze medallists to allow for social distancing.
- All the presenters will be vaccinated, and there will be only one IOC member and one International Federation representative at each event.
Further, they have explained exactly how each medal ceremony will occur at the Games in order to follow COVID-19 protocols:
- The presenters will be waiting for the athletes on the field of play, and will not be part of the procession with the athletes.
- Trays with medals and gifts (a flower bouquet and a small Tokyo 2020 mascot) will be placed on a table or a stand.
- The presenters will pick up the trays from the tables or stands and will carry the trays to the medallists.
- Athletes will take the medals and gifts from the trays, and will have no contact with the presenters.
- Athletes will stay on their own podium module during the entire duration of the ceremony.
- There will be no group photo on the gold medal podium.
The updated framework is in response to the worsening state of the pandemic in Japan and specifically in Tokyo. The Tokyo metropolitan government reported a total of 1,308 cases of COVID-19 on July 15, 2021, which according to Kyodo News is the largest single-day case number the city has reported since January 21, 2021.
On July 14, 2021, the country of Japan reported 3,211 cases of the virus which was up from the 2,396 on July 13 and the 1,511 on July 12. As of July 14, 2021, Japan was at a 2,302 7-day average of COVID-19 cases which is the highest it has been since June 8, 2021, when it hit 2,320.
The updated medal ceremony protocols are the latest of a number of intensified COVID-19 regulations that the IOC has announced including the July 8 decision that the Games would occur without spectators.
IOC President Thomas Bach recently spoke about the decision to hold the Games without spectators expressed his support for the decision. He also explained that while it looked for a while that the Games may be canceled altogether that cancellation was “not really an option.” One likely reason for the fact that it was not an option for the IOC is the financial loss associated with canceling the Games. A May 2021 report from the Nomura Research Institute estimated that Japan would undergo a $16 billion loss if the Games were canceled.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremonies are set to take place on Friday, July 23, 2021, and competition, including the swimming portion, will begin the next day on July 24.