Olympians will put medals around own necks to fight COVID-19 spread
© (© Tokyo 2020 and TMG via the IOC)

Athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympics will be required to place medals around their own necks during this year's medal ceremonies as an added measure to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced the “very significant change” on Wednesday, noting that the tweak in the traditional medal ceremonies for the 339 events will follow specific health guidelines, The Associated Press reported.

“The medals will not be given around the neck,” Bach said to reporters during a conference call from Tokyo, according to the AP. “They will be presented to the athlete on a tray and then the athlete will take the medal him or herself.”

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“It will be made sure that the person who will put the medal on the tray will do so only with disinfected gloves so that the athlete can be sure that nobody touched them before,” he added.

The new approach is significantly different from the way medals were awarded to soccer players in Europe this month during the UEFA European Championship. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin personally awarded players with medals following the competition finals by placing the medals around their necks, the AP noted.

Ceferin also shook hands with Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma during Sunday's Euro 2020 medal and trophy presentation.

Bach explained on Wednesday that handshaking will not be part of Olympic ceremonies.

“[T]here will be no shake hands and there will be no hugs there during the ceremony,” he said, according to the AP.

An International Olympic Committee member traditionally presents the Olympic medals. Officials have previously said that committee members, as well as medalists, will be required to wear masks during the ceremony.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week announced a state of emergency in Tokyo amid an increase in coronavirus infections. It is set to remain in effect through Aug. 22, and the Olympics are set to take place in the city from July 23-Aug. 8.