Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
The International Olympic Committee made an update to its policy regarding face masks amid the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Games.
On Sunday, the IOC, which is the governing body of the national Olympic committees, said athletes are now able to take their masks off for 30 seconds on the podium during medal ceremonies for a photo opportunity. However, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said a daily briefing that celebratory hugs are not recommended.
"No, there is no relaxation," Adams said when asked if there were any changes to the rules about hugging on the podium. "We urge and ask everyone to obey the rules, whatever stakeholder you are. It's not a 'nice to have' — it is a must-have. It's important, both for the sports and for everyone involved and, of course, for our Japanese partners and friends particularly."
Adams continued, "It also sends a strong message so we would ask and urge people to please follow the playbooks. I think yesterday, [IOC Sports Director] Christophe Dubi put it very well. We understand, we're all here, there is a lot excitement. And of course, when you win a medal ... we feel for the athletes. There are things that, unfortunately, we have had to make [the rules] stricter."
On Saturday, Dubi, the International Olympic Committee's executive director of the Games, said at a press conference, "Every time we see someone without a mask, and that happens a little bit everywhere, it's our duty, all of us, to say, 'Reminder, mask please.' And in most of the cases, people do simply forget. If you have blatant behaviors that are absolutely unbearable, we will definitely take action."
Urging athletes to continue to follow the COVID-19 protocols during the Games, Adams added on Sunday: "These messages are constantly passed, not just to athletes but to all of us. It's really in our interests, and the interests of everyone, and the interests of a safe and secure Games."
On Sunday, several Team USA swimmers were photographed briefly not wearing their face masks as they smiled with their various medals, including gold medalist Chase Kalisz.
"Ideally I will wear it as much as possible. If I had the mask off on the podium it was really because someone was holding a sign," Kalisz said, ESPN reported. "I can't speak for what the proper protocol was, but he had a sign on the podium that said 'mask off, mask on,' so that's what we did."
So far, at least 123 coronavirus cases tied to the Olympics have been reported and multiple American athletes have been forced to withdraw from competition at the last minute because of an infection, including tennis player Coco Gauff.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.