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Olympic medalists allowed to remove masks for 30 seconds on podium

Yui Ohashi, of Japan, wipes her eye on the podium after winning the women's 400-meter Individual medley at the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo.(AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

TOKYO(Kyodo) -- The International Olympic Committee said Sunday it has relaxed COVID-19 protocols at the Tokyo Olympics to allow medalists to take off their masks for up to 30 seconds on the podium to be photographed.

    The relaxation of the rule was decided on condition that medalists are physically distanced, while they are still required to wear masks when they take a group photo at the victory ceremony.

    The IOC said the change will "allow athletes to have an image for the media that captures their faces and their emotions during a unique moment in their sporting career, as well as to celebrate the achievements of all the medalists together."

    The relaxed "playbook" protocols took effect Sunday and "will continue to be put into practice in all venues over the coming days."

    Earlier in the day, IOC spokesman Mark Adams had warned athletes to keep their masks on even while celebrating after winning medals.

    "It's not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have," he said at a press conference. "It's really in our own interest, the interest of everyone, and the interest of a safe and secure games that we do obey these rules."

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