- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 14, 2021

For years, when a medal-winning athlete reaches the podium, they bend down to have an Olympic official place the medal around their neck. But that practice is no more — at least for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics later this month.

Athletes will instead place those medals around their own necks in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which leaves Japan in a state of emergency as case numbers rise ahead of the July 23 start.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced the “very significant change” in a conference call Wednesday.

“The medals will not be given around the neck,” Bach said. “They will be presented to the athlete on a tray and then the athlete will take the medal him or herself.”

Bach said the official who places the medal on the tray will do so “only with disinfected gloves so that the athlete can be sure that nobody touched them before.”

The approach is different from that of the European Championship soccer tournament that concluded Sunday in London, where UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin hung medals around the necks of players himself. He also shook hands with Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma at the medal ceremony.

Both of those practices will not be allowed in Tokyo for the Olympics. Bach said, “There will be no shake hands, and there will be no hugs there during the ceremony.” And while Ceferin posed with Donnarumma and others without a mask, the IOC has previously said medalists and ceremony officials must wear masks.

The state of emergency in Japan runs through Aug. 22, with the Games scheduled to end Aug. 8. Olympic organizers had already barred foreign visitors from entering the country, but the organizers have extended that ban to nearly all venues at the Olympics.

• This report is based in part on wire service reports.

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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