Pandemic changes Olympic traditions - Korea Times
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Pandemic changes Olympic traditions

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The custom of athletes taking a bite of their hard-won gold medals will no longer be a part of awards ceremonies at the Tokyo Olympics. Korea Times file
The custom of athletes taking a bite of their hard-won gold medals will no longer be a part of awards ceremonies at the Tokyo Olympics. Korea Times file

By Kang Seung-woo

As much as the coronavirus pandemic has brought about major changes to our daily routines, it has also brought changes to the world's biggest quadrennial sporting event. The COVID-19-delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which kicked off Friday, will be held unprecedentedly without spectators for the majority of the Olympic events, due to the city's coronavirus state of emergency which runs until Aug. 22.

But the athlete-perplexing ban on fans in the venues is not the end of the story, as the medal ceremony will go through "very significant changes" as well, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

First of all, medalists will have to hang their hard-won medals around their own necks as part of the IOC's efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Traditionally, IOC members or leaders of the governing body of the sport were the ones to hang the medals around the athletes' necks.

"The medals will not be hung around the necks," IOC President Thomas Bach said earlier this month. "They will be presented to the athlete on a tray and then the athlete will take the medal himself or herself."

According to Bach, the staff responsible for putting the medals on trays will have to put on disinfected gloves and make sure that no one else touched them before.

In addition, the IOC has decided to prevent both handshakes and hugs between medalists, as well as between athletes and medal presenters during award ceremonies.

Plus, the tradition of athletes biting into medals will be no longer part of award ceremonies at the Games in Tokyo, as the IOC has mandated that all medalists and ceremony officials wear masks.

With more athletes expressing disappointment at having to compete before empty stands at the Tokyo Games, the IOC has decided to play artificial crowd noises recorded from each event of the previous Olympics, described by Bach as an "immersive sound system," as part of its efforts to create a suitable atmosphere as well as to support the athletes.

Kang Seung-woo ksw@koreatimes.co.kr


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