Medal ceremonies at the Olympics have always been a tear-jerking, heartwarming moment of celebration. Elated athletes on the podium, bending down to have a bronze, silver or even gold medal placed around their neck by an Olympic official or dignitary, reported NPR.
But not this year. The COVID-19 protocols at the Tokyo Olympics changed that tradition.
Instead of the usual ceremony, Olympians in Tokyo were left with a “sort of DIY medal ceremony,” reported TODAY. Amid the change, medalists at this year’s Games created a new tradition: athletes giving each other medals.
Why are athletes giving each other medals?
With the COVID-19 restrictions, Olympic officials are not allowed to place medals around the medalist’s neck, reported Today. The change breaks an Olympic tradition that first started at the 1960 Games.
- Dignitaries or other officials began placing the medal around the winner’s neck at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy, reported Today.
- The tradition became a staple of the Games, per Today.
But not in Tokyo.
In Tokyo, some athletes have begun placing medals around their teammates’ and partner’s necks, reported NPR.
In some medal ceremonies, the gesture has caught on. In the men’s doubles rowing ceremony, the silver and gold teams placed medals around each other’s necks, as some viewers tweeted.
What are the COVID-19 protocols for medal ceremonies?
The COVID-19 protocols for medal ceremonies involved masked officials carrying the medals out on a tray, reported NPR. Masked athletes were then expected to place the medal around their own necks.
- Afterward, the Olympian could remove their mask for a brief photo opportunity, per Today.
- The tradition of Olympic athletes biting their medals has continued, reported Today.
In team sports and partner competitions, these DIY medal ceremonies took a more personal route. Teammates and partners have begun placing medals around each other's necks, reported NPR.
Surprisingly, the COVID-19 restrictions allowed for this adorable new tradition to emerge and, for some, have made the moment even more meaningful, per NPR.
Some teams — like the Canadian women’s freestyle relay team — have taken turns giving each other medals, reported Today.
Due to Covid, the medal ceremony at the Olympics has changed.— Goodable (@Goodable) July 27, 2021
Athletes now have to put the medals around their necks themselves.
What did the Canadian Women's freestyle relay team do when they won silver?
They took turns putting the medals around each other.
❤ 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/AGZQ88xLzZ
Will this new tradition continue in future Olympic Games?
The endearing new tradition has been highlighted as a pure example of teamwork under stressful conditions, reported NPR. Athletes and viewers alike have reacted positively to the more personal medal ceremonies.
Teammates giving the medals to each other >>> athletes receiving the medals from some higher-ups— Gergely Marosi (@emgergo) July 27, 2021
Some people on Twitter have even called for the new tradition to be kept. The International Olympic Committee has not commented on that possibility.
The team mates giving each other the medals should be kept— Marc O'Reachtaire (@o_reachtaire) July 28, 2021
For now, viewers and athletes can enjoy the intimate celebrations taking place in Tokyo and around the world, reported Today.
I gotta say, one innovation of @Tokyo2020 that I find powerful is the athletes putting medals on each other. So much more meaningful and emotional (to me). I’d love to see this new procedure remain if and where possible. @Olympics #StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/LjxmiWN9mk— Terrence Burns (@TBurnsSports) July 30, 2021