How the Tokyo Summer Olympics Will Be Different Than Years Past

No spectators, shouting or alcohol will be allowed at the delayed Summer Games, which kick off July 23

Tokyo Olympics
Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Jinhee Lee/NurPhoto via Getty

The world will be watching when the Tokyo Summer Olympics kick off on July 23, following a year-long delay for safety's sake amid the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The long-awaited event will see the world's most elite athletes go for the gold on behalf of their home nation, but the upcoming Games will look a whole lot different than years past, in response to COVID-19 concerns.

Here's what traditions have been tweaked for the Olympics this year.

No foreign spectators — families included

Though the Olympics traditionally packs stadiums with visitors from all over the globe, spectators have been banned altogether from watching the Games in person, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The government of Japan declared a state of emergency Thursday in Tokyo, as COVID-19 cases surge in the host city, Reuters reported. This fourth state of emergency will last until at least Aug. 22 – for the entirety of the Olympics, slated to run from July 23 to Aug. 8.

The blanket spectator ban had been previously agreed upon by the IOC, International Paralympic Committee, and Tokyo organizers in June, in the event that such a crisis would be declared.

"No spectators will be allowed into any venues in Tokyo during the Olympic Games," the IOC said in a statement July 8.

However, events held outside of Japan's capital city may not be subject to the decision, which will be made at the discretion of local government leaders, the IOC clarified.

Prior to the announcement, organizers had initially said that local Japanese residents would be welcome to attend the Games, with stadiums at 50% capacity.

Tokyo Olympics

Beneath the ban, athletes' families, including parents of minors (like those on the gymnastics teams) and competitors' children, will not be able to watch their loved ones participate.

One key exception: breastfeeding athletes are now allowed to bring their child to the Summer Games. Prior to the rule reversal, several athletes who are also moms slammed the proposed policy as disappointing.

"I haven't been without my daughter for more than three days since she was born, given that she's only 13 months old," Team USA soccer star Alex Morgan told PEOPLE before the breastfeeding exception was announced. "So it would be an incredibly difficult time as a new mom to be going to the Olympics without her."

Olympic moms
Alex Morgan with her daughter Charlie after the NWSL soccer match between the Orlando Pride and the NY/NJ Gotham FC on June 20, 2021, at Explorer Stadium in Orlando, Florida. Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Athletes who bring along nursing children will also get to "bring a caretaker or a partner to help them out," the IOC told Today, adding that there will be "private accommodation" arranged for these families, and that the children will not be allowed in the Olympic or Paralympic Village.

No shouting or cheering – but applause is okay

Bite your tongue! Due to the airborne nature of coronavirus' spread, shouting and cheering will be banned at the Summer Games. (Applause is still allowed.) Any non-athletes cleared to enter the venue must receive a temperature check to enter, and wear a face mask at all times, according to the AFP.

Inside, no one is allowed to ask athletes for autographs or wave towels, as "any form of cheering that could create a crowd" is forbidden.

Listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on the Tokyo Olympics.

Commenting on the change, Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee acknowledged it might be difficult for those in attendance to curb their enthusiasm.

"The festive mood will have to be suppressed -- that has become a major challenge," Hashimoto said, per AFP. "People can feel joy in their hearts, but they can't be loud."

Tokyo Olympics

"Those are the areas where we need to be creative, and we are putting in a lot of effort to come up with a new way of celebrating," she added.

Once an event ends, anyone in attendance will be asked to leave immediately to avoid congregating.

No alcohol will be sold

Cheers of another type are also banned: Those with a festive drink. Alcohol cannot be sold or consumed at Olympic events this year, officials announced on June 23. Hashimoto explained that the decision was made "to prevent expansion of infection," The New York Times reported.

Responding to the regulation, a rep for Asahi Breweries – one of the largest liquor companies in Japan and a sponsor of the Tokyo Games – said there was no hard feelings.

"We totally understand the decision by the committee," company spokesperson Takayuki Tanaka told the outlet. "We will keep supporting the Games' success."

Tokyo Olympics
Eugene Hoshiko/AP/Shutterstock

There will be strict health and safety regulations

Athletes will need to bring their A-game when it comes to heeding the official health rules at the Olympics amid the pandemic. According to the IOC's most recent health and safety statement on planned protocol, all participants must be tested at least twice before flying to Tokyo – which is just the first of many rounds of testing.

"In principle, athletes and all those in close proximity with athletes will be tested daily to minimize the risk of undetected positive cases that could transmit the virus," the IOC said in the April 28 statement, detailing that this testing will align with specific schedules of sporting events.

All others attending the Games will be testing for the first three days after arrival, and "regularly" throughout their time in Tokyo, "based on the operational nature of their role and level of contact with athletes," the organization outlined.

The last place anyone will likely want to be is the so-called Fever Clinic, a block of isolation rooms inside the village, where PCR tests will be distributed to anyone suspected of having COVID-19, the AP reports. Athletes and officials who are asymptomatic or have minor symptoms will be isolated outside of the high-density athletes' housing, and anyone seriously ill will be hospitalized.

Olympians must also wear masks inside the village, even if they are vaccinated. Ample signage on social distancing and personal hygiene will also be displayed throughout.

Condoms will be distributed at the end of the Olympics

The Olympic Village is notoriously a particularly fun place to be young and single, which is why organizers have provided plenty of condoms since the 1998 Summer Olympics in Seoul (when they were first handed out to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS). This year, condoms will still be provided in large quantities, but organizers emphasize that they are only meant to be used after the games.

Since social distancing is encouraged to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, the 150,000 condoms (to be shared among the 11,000 attendees) will be distributed at the end of the Games, according to USA Today, and athletes will be encouraged to practice safe sex back home.

"The distribution of condoms is not to use in the village," said Takashi Kitajima, the general manager of the Olympic Village, per the outlet.

It's the first time a pandemic has postponed the Olympics

Olympic Committee
KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

Though the world's most elite athletic event has been previously postponed, the coronavirus health crisis, which emerged last year, marked the first time the Games were delayed for a reason other than war.

In fact, the Olympics were temporarily delayed and ultimately canceled three times in the 20th century – 1916, 1940 and 1944 – due to the World Wars.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.

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