COVID-19 restrictions have meant that Japan has needed to significantly limit who can attend the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Such restrictions mean family and friends are unable to attend alongside competing athletes, and until today the policy also captured babies who are still breastfeeding.
But pleas from athletes have changed that, as a number of female athletes will be attending in three weeks’ time, having recently given birth.
The organisers said they have given “careful consideration” to the “unique circumstances” surrounding some athletes at these particular games, and they will make exceptions to the restrictions.
The IOC has welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement: “We very much welcome the fact that so many mothers are able to continue to compete at the highest level, including the Olympic Games.”
One such athlete who can now attend with her newborn includes US marathon runner Aliphine Tuliamuk, who gave birth to her daughter in January. She had previously spoken out about the pain of not being able to take her daughter, saying on social media that she has been crying about the decision and the thought of leaving her daughter.
“I want her to know that even in the face of challenges that she can still follow her passion and prevail, “ she wrote. “Now I need to tell this to myself, that even in the face of challenges like leaving my now 5 month old breastfeeding daughter behind for 10 days to race at the Olympics, I can prevail and show her how to be strong.”
Another breastfeeding mother is Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher, who has also publicly shared the impact being away from her baby would have on her and said that she would not be able to pump enough breastmilk for the 28 days that she would be away. She said on Instagram she was being forced to chose between being “a breastfeeding mom or an Olympic athlete”.
“I can’t have both. Tokyo has said no friends, no family, no exceptions.”
Since learning about the new announcement, Gaucher shared a video on Instagram: “Sophie can come to Tokyo! So relieved that I don’t have to make this decision.”
The organisers made the announcement on Wednesday.
“After careful consideration of the unique situation facing athletes with infants, we are pleased to confirm that, when necessary, young children will be able to accompany athletes to Japan,” the committee said in a statement.
According to Reuters, these children will not be able to access the Olympic village with families needing to stay in approved hotels.
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