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Every time the Olympics roll around, the internet takes special delight in watching reaction videos of Team U.S.A. parents in the stands as their kids compete for gold (i.e. Aly Raisman’s mom and dad totally losing it). But as some watching the 2021 gymnastics trials learned last night, that won’t be possible this year.
As NBC Sports commentator Mike Tirico explained on the second day of gymnastics trials, Sunday marked a particularly emotional night for the friends and family members of the Tokyo-bound gymnasts. As it turns out, it was the last night they would get to watch their star athletes compete in person until after the Tokyo Olympic games. Organizers of this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games have banned all international spectators and fans from attending the events.
Upon hearing this, many viewers expressed shock and concern for the participating athletes. “WAIT A DANG MINUTE. No parents can travel to Tokyo?!?! Does this mean I won’t end up sobbing multiple times per event?” one person tweeted. “The parents of the gymnasts can’t go to Tokyo for the Olympics?? That’s sad,” another said. “I cannot believe they aren’t allowing the Olympic athletes who are minors have a parent with them. Am I missing something? Wth?? Totally get the COVID safety precautions, but there are other safety issues to be concerned with as well,” a different viewer declared.
Why are there no parents or family members at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics?
As you may have guessed, the decision stems from healthy and safety concerns amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Among the concerns are the variant strains of the virus that are emerging across the world, as well as varying international travel restrictions. As explained in a statement from Olympic organizers in March, “This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public.” The international residents who had previously purchased tickets were expected to have received a refund.
As of press time, Japan is reporting that 10.3% of its total population is fully vaccinated, per Our World in Data.
To be clear, this policy affects more than just Team U.S.A. gymnasts. This means parents and friends with athletes in all other sports—swimming, soccer, volleyball, tennis and more—will also not be able to watch from the stands. At this point, it’s unclear if NBC will try to make up for it by scheduling interviews with family members and/or capturing family reactions in real time via Zoom.
But no matter how broadcasters try to cope with the lack of spectators in attendance, the more important factor is how this may affect the athletes themselves. “It’s gonna suck not having friends and family there, but [I] totally understand,” beach volleyball star April Ross told USA Today. “They can have parties and watch at home. So I’m keeping an open mind about it. Health is number one, obviously. Safety is number one.”
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