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Mask policy clarified amid podium confusion

China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-26 09:18
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Australia's 4x100m freestyle swimming team-(from left) Bronte Campbell, Meg Harris, Emma Mckeon and Cate Campbell-pose mask-less on the podium with their gold medals after setting a world record in Sunday's final at the Tokyo Olympics. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO-Athletes must wear masks at all Tokyo Olympic Games venues, including medal ceremonies, the International Olympic Committee said on Sunday, but under a new policy they are briefly allowed to remove them on the podium for a photo opportunity.

Masks are mandatory across all venues, both inside and outside, for all athletes, staff and media, as part of Games organizers' strict measures to combat the coronavirus.

"It's not a nice (rule) to have. It's a must (rule) to have," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

"No, there is no relaxation and we would urge and ask everyone to obey the rules," Adams added. "It's important for the sports, for everyone involved and for our Japanese friends and it would send a strong message."

But athletes can briefly take masks off on the podium for 30 seconds for a photo opportunity, the IOC said.

During Sunday morning's swimming finals, American Chase Kalisz took off his mask on the podium after his gold-medal performance in the men's 400 individual medley.

He was standing next to maskless compatriot and silver medalist Jay Literland and Australian Brendon Smith, who took the bronze and also removed his mask.

"The swimmers in the venue this morning followed instructions which they were given by the protocol team," an IOC spokesperson said.

"These instructions were in line with a new policy which is in the process of being communicated to all."

Team Australia also said its athletes had done nothing wrong.

"Our athletes were simply following the direction of the official at the podium, who holds up a sign saying masks off briefly for the photographs," a Team Australia official said.

All 12 athletes from Australia, Canada and the United States on the podium for the women's 4x100 freestyle relay ceremony were maskless, smiling to photographers.

The Olympic teams of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan had paraded mostly mask-less through the National Stadium at Friday's opening ceremony, making an awkward contrast with other national teams who covered their faces in line with COVID-19 protocols.

Organizers announced another 10 positive COVID-19 cases to Games-related individuals on Sunday, bringing the total to 132 cases since July 1.

REUTERS

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