In certain places in the world of sports, COVID protocols and mitigation strategies designed at preventing the transmission of illness are becoming a thing of the past. In others -- such as the Tokyo Olympics later this month -- such strategies are very much alive and well, and they have forced changes to a traditional Olympic ceremony.
According to a report by the Associated Press, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach announced Wednesday that athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will put their medals around their own necks. The alteration to medal ceremonies was made in the name of preventing the spread of COVID.
"[Medals] will be presented to the athlete on a tray and then the athlete will take the medal him or herself," Bach said. "It will be made sure that the person who will put the medal on tray will do so only with disinfected gloves so that the athlete can be sure that nobody touched them before."
COVID protocols for the Olympics remain restrictive even as such regulations have been loosened at other sporting events. In addition to the self-presentation of medals, it was also confirmed that athletes will not be permitted to shake hands or give hugs during medal ceremonies.
The Tokyo Olympics, postponed from 2020 to 2021, are slated to go on despite a state of emergency in the city and domestic opposition to the games being held. According to a report by Dan Cacian of Newsweek, a recent Ipsos Global Advisor poll revealed that 78% of Japanese respondents believe that the Olympics should not go ahead as planned. Although the Olympics are set to go on regardless, they are shaping up to be a muted affair, with both international and domestic fans barred from attending the games.
In June, Japanese Olympic Committee executive board member Kaori Yamaguchi published a scathing editorial against the IOC, stating that Japan had been "cornered" into hosting the Olympics while the IOC willfully turned a blind eye to public opinion and concerns from local authorities.
"What will these Olympics be for and for whom?" Yamaguchi wrote. "The Games have already lost meaning and are being held just for the sake of them. I believe we have already missed the opportunity to cancel.
"It would require too much energy to make and follow through with such a decision. We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now. We are damned if we do, and damned if we do not."