TOKYO, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Empty stadiums. Face masks and social distancing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's Tokyo Olympic Games looked and felt so different from any of the past events.
However, humanity's passion for sports, as well as friendship and unity among the Games participants never ceased.
NO SPECTATORS IN VENUES
All spectators were banned from Olympic venues in Tokyo during the Games. This included both overseas and domestic ticket holders. But it did not prevent people from enjoying the Games on television or via online streaming.
After Yang Qian, a student shooter from Tsinghua University, grabbed the first gold medal for China in the women's 10m air rifle, more than 130,000 people took to her Sina Weibo account to congratulate her.
Quan Hongchan, a 14-year-old Chinese diver, put on a nearly flawless performance to win the women's 10m platform event. The teenage girl from a rural family in south China's Guangdong Province said her favorite snack was "spicy sticks." A couple of days later, boxes of spicy sticks were delivered by fans to her home in Maihe Village.
FACE MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
All participants at the Games were required to wear a face mask at all times, except when eating, drinking, training, competing or sleeping. Participants were also urged to minimize social interaction with others.
As a result, media interviews were done in a different way at venues.
Jia Xiuquan, head coach of China's women's football team, had to stand on the pitch, craning his neck upwards to talk to journalists in the stands before his team's group opener on July 19.
PUTTING ON THEIR OWN MEDALS
To keep in line with social distancing rules, athletes had to put on their own medals after securing a gold, silver or bronze. They were also not be able to kiss them, as they were required to wear masks on the podium.
But the moments were equally memorable for athletes, who might have waited for years for such an occasion.
Shooters Pang Wei and Jiang Ranxin chose to put medals on each other after they finished first in the 10m air pistol mixed team event.
Pang, 35, said he improvised the idea at the medal ceremony. "We are a team. We trust and support each other mentally. I knew she would do well, and I told myself that I should not be a burden on her."
With more than 200 million COVID-19 cases reported globally so far, the Tokyo Olympics managed to draw more than 11,000 athletes from 200 plus countries and regions.
Social distancing regulations didn't pull the athletes away emotionally from each other.
American gymnast Sunisa Lee posted a selfie with her Chinese friend and rival Guan Chenchen on Twitter, saying "reunited" shortly after her arrival in Tokyo. During Guan's performance on the balance beam, Lee watched attentively and cheered. She later posted another selfie with Guan, saying "I'm so proud."
Nelson Mandela once said, "Sport has the power to change the world."
When the Olympics was inevitably changed by COVID-19, it also lit up the lives of many around the globe, inspiring people to always strive to be better, to be "Faster, Higher, Stronger - Together". Enditem