2020 Tokyo Olympics: Photos of the Sweet Gesture Athletes Are Doing for One Another on the Podium

by Amy Myers

Even though the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have rigid restrictions for COVID-19, athletes on the podium are showing that team spirit always shines through. It’s no secret that this year’s Olympics look a bit different from past years. In stopping the spread of the virus, Japan enforced strict rules to ensure the athletes’ and hosts’ safety.

One of these rules includes the change to the medal ceremony. Before, someone from the host nation would present the winning athletes with their medals. However, this year, the athletes must pick up their medals from a sanitized tray. They then have to place them on their own necks.

According to the Associated Press, the IOC stated that before the medals reach the athletes, they are placed on the medal tray via “disinfected gloves so that the athlete can be sure that nobody touched them before.”

Unfortunately, this also means that the competing athletes on the podium cannot high-five, shake hands or hug to celebrate their victories. Of course, the athletes and the competing nations surely appreciate Japan’s efforts to keep them safe. But they’ve also found a (permitted) loophole to make the ceremony a bit more personalized.

Even though athletes from different nations can’t touch, their own teammates can. Take a look at how teammate Katie McLaughlin helps celebrate fellow silver medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky.

Katie McLaughlin of Team United States places a silver medal around the neck of Katie Ledecky of Team United States during the medal ceremony for the Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Final on day six of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 29, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Teammates Are Helping Keep the Spirit of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Alive

It might not seem like very much. However, the small gesture of placing the medal around a teammate’s neck is helping keep the spirit of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics alive for the athletes. With empty stands, masks and social distancing, no doubt the games feel a bit lackluster in comparison to previous years. Just in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stands were filled with roaring fans and athletes could cheer and hug as much as they wanted. All their teammates are doing is helping to restore that sentiment even for a moment.

It’s not a bad tradition to start, either. What greater honor than to have your best friend, teammate and/or mentor bestow your medal in front of the whole world? No offense to the previous people that gave away the medals, but we wouldn’t mind if this tradition was here to stay. That way, the ceremony emphasizes the importance of team effort, even for individual sports like swimming or climbing.

Thankfully, the International Olympic Committee is on board with the impromptu ceremony revision. President Thomas Bach told TODAY that they are happy to support any effort to ensure the safety of the athletes.