Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: why 2021 Olympics look different - Covid restrictions and empty stadiums explained

Athletes will be required to put their own medals on after winning gold, silver or bronze due to social distancing

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are set to kick off on Friday (23 July), with the Games expected to look and feel very different compared to any of the past events.

After already being delayed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Olympics will have significant differences, including no spectators in stadiums, a smaller opening ceremony, and athletes putting their own medals on.

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Here’s some of the main reasons why the 2021 Summer Olympics will look different.

(Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)

No spectators allowed

All spectators have been banned from Olympic venues in Tokyo during the Games. This includes both foreign and domestic ticket holders.

The rule has been implemented to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection.

The decision was taken after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo due to the rising Covid-19 cases. The declaration takes effect July 12 and lasts through Aug. 22, meaning the Olympics will be held entirely under emergency measures.

President of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said it was a difficult decision but that they had "no other choice."

However, some fans may appear at certain venues only if they are in areas where emergency measures are not in force. The decision will be determined by local government authorities where the venue is located.

Spectators have also been banned from lining the route of the Olympic marathon and race walk events. The location of each was already moved hundreds of miles away from city centre Tokyo, to Hokkaido prefecture.

Face masks and social distancing

All participants at the Games will be required to wear a face mask at all times, except when eating, drinking, training, competing or sleeping.

Participants are also urged to wash their hands regularly, and minimise social interaction with others and avoid enclosed spaces and crowds where possible.

Individuals involved in the Games must also maintain a two-metre distance from athletes, and at least one metre from others at all times. Individuals will be required to eat their meals alone or while keeping a two metre distance.

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Quarantine and vaccination and testing

Vaccination from Covid-19 is encouraged by everyone involved in the Games, but it is not a specific requirement in the Tokyo 2020 rulebook.

However, all Games participants who are not living in Japan must quarantine themselves at their accommodation upon arrival for the next three days. Individuals will also have to take two Covid-19 tests on two separate days with 96 hours of their flight.

During the Games, athletes, and all those in close proximity, will have to undergo daily testing. Individuals will also have their temperatures checked every time they enter the Olympic and Paralympic Village or a Games venue. Those who have COVID-19 symptoms or recently tested positive for the virus will be refused entry.

New Olympic sports

Four new sports will debut in the Tokyo Olympic Games - Karate, Skateboarding, Sport Climbing and Surfing.

The sports have been added as part of an effort to attract a younger viewership and encourage young athletes to aspire to compete in the Olympic Games.

The four new sports will add 18 events and 474 athletes, with equal numbers of women and men competing in each new sport.

Smaller Opening Ceremony

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the opening and closing ceremonies will be smaller in scale.

Fewer athletes will attend both ceremonies, with reports in January suggesting just 6,000 of the 11,000 competitors would attend the opener. The number is likely to be smaller.

The ceremonies are also reported to have a more sombre aspect than usual - paying tribute to the millions killed in the coronavirus pandemic as well as the victims of Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Putting on their own medals

To keep in check with social distancing rules, athletes will have to put on their own medals after securing a gold, silver or bronze.

Athletes will also not be able to kiss them, because they must wear a mask on the podium. There will also be no photo opportunities with all three athletes on the top step.