Olympics review: U.S. wins 39 gold

Pandemic guidelines restricted attendance, added enhanced safety protocols

By Alex Budzynski, Editor-in-Chief

After being postponed for a year, the 2020 Summer Olympics closed on Sunday after 16 days of competition.

The Games opened on July 23 with a simple opening ceremony and the traditional Parade of Nations. Athletes from across the globe entered the stadium wearing masks, a side effect of the ongoing pandemic. Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron to officially begin the games. 

The Tokyo Games included 339 events in 33 different sports, five of which made their Olympic debut: baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing. According to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, these additions are meant to appeal to younger generations. 

“We want to take sport to the youth,” he said. “Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”

The Games also introduced 15 new events within existing sports, including 3×3 basketball, freestyle BMX and madison cycling. 

Concerns surrounding COVID-19 at this large-scale international event were cause for heightened guidelines.

“(The IOC) will support any measure which is necessary to have a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games for the Japanese people and all the participants,” Bach said. 

In July, Japanese officials declared a state of emergency after a spike in COVID-19 cases. This prompted an announcement barring spectators from attending competitions.

“It is extremely regrettable that the Games will be staged in a very limited manner in the face of the spread of the novel coronavirus infections,” President of the Tokyo Organizing Committee Seiko Hashimoto stated following the announcement. 

James Houle, lead sports psychologist for Ohio State Athletics, indicated that competing behind closed doors may have impacted athletes’ performances. 

“Crowd noise and excitement are something that increase athletes’ adrenaline even further,” Houle said. “Without a crowd, athletes will really have to find that energy within themselves or from their teammates. They will have to rely on each other more than ever to help with that energy.” 

With spectators prohibited, livestream parties in athletes’ hometowns became the norm. 

Additionally, the thousands of athletes and officials traveling to Tokyo were exempt from Japan’s typical quarantine protocols. 

Vaccinations were not required, but they were strongly recommended by the IOC. To incentivize inoculations, the Chinese Olympic Committee offered to cover the cost of vaccinations for any athletes competing in the 2020 Summer Olympics or the 2022 Winter Olympics. 

Due to the restrictions, athletes flooded to TikTok, entertaining millions of people with videos from inside the Olympic Village. At front and center were the controversial “anti-sex” cardboard beds provided. Videos of athletes attempting to break the beds, which can support up to 440 pounds, were rampant. 

Despite the rumors, the unusual bed frames were an eco-friendly gesture, akin to the beds used in disaster shelters. 

Per a news release from Inside The Games, “(The beds) will be recycled into paper products after the Games, with the mattress components recycled into new plastic products… This will be the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that all beds and bedding are made almost entirely from renewable materials.” 

Top U.S. headlines included the controversial decision by favored gymnast Simone Biles to pull out of several events and all-star Allison Felix becoming the most decorated woman in track and field history. 

Several other countries also had historic firsts at Tokyo. Bermuda, the Philippines and Qatar won their first-ever Olympic medals.

At the conclusion of the games, the United States finished with 113 medals, the most overall, followed by China with 88.