Athletes Will Put on Own Medals at Tokyo Olympics Due to COVID Concerns

Athletes will have to put medals around their own necks at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to COVID-19 restrictions.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach made the announcement on Wednesday morning, noting a change to a long-honored tradition.

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

The tray holders will be wearing disinfected gloves to ensure that the medals were not touched by anyone when the athletes receive them, according to Bach.

Gold, silver and bronze medals are traditionally presented to the best athletes in the world by an IOC member or a notable figure in the sport. The medals are adorned around the necks of the Olympians while they stand on the podium.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, the IOC planned on staff wearing masks while presenting the winners with their medals.

Handshakes and hugs during the ceremony will also not be allowed, Bach announced.

Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency following a rise in COVID-19 cases just weeks before the Olympics are set to take place. The opening ceremony for the Games is set for July 23.

"Eighty-five percent of the athletes and officials who will live in the Olympic Village, and almost 100 percent of the IOC Members and IOC staff, are either vaccinated or immune," Bach said in a statement after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide.

Global Olympic trials selected athletes to represent their countries this summer after the Games were pushed back a year due to the pandemic. During the trials, the IOC made the decision to limit spectators to 50 percent capacity. No international guests, including the families of the Olympians, were allowed at the event.

After the Japanese government declared a state of emergency, all spectators were banned from watching the events in Tokyo.

"The state of emergency in Tokyo is being implemented as a measure aimed at suppressing the flow of people in order to prevent the spread of infection now, because the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remains high and the number of people infected with variant COVID-19 strains in Tokyo is increasing," Thursday's IOC statement said.

Of the 8,000 personnel who arrived for the Games this week, only three have tested positive at pre-departure screenings, according to the IOC.

One official is quarantining in Doha, Qatar after testing positive following a welcoming event. Nearly all of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team was in attendance, and the team was forced to stay in Qatar for additional testing, the IOC said in a statement on Wednesday.

Two members of the team were not at the event and are expected to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Newsweek reached out to the IOC for comment but did not hear back by publication time.

Update - 7/14/2021 - 12:36 PM - This story has been updated with additional information.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Medal
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach announced Wednesday that athletes will be required to place their medals around their own necks. Above, a man takes pictures of a large-scale reproduction of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games gold medal as part of the Olympic Agora event at Mitsui Tower in Tokyo on July 14, 2021. Philip Fong / AFP/Getty Images