To hold the rescheduled 2020 Summer Games as safely as possible amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the International Olympic Committee announced that athletes and personnel must wear masks throughout the Tokyo venues, including medal ceremonies. And now that much of the public has been intently watching the Games, some are wondering: What kind of masks are the Olympic athletes wearing?
While athletes are permitted to briefly remove the masks for photos on the medal podium, the images of Olympians wearing face coverings have become a fixture on TV.
Naturally, as the games went into full swing, the various masks have become a popular topic of conversation. Team USA, in particular, has been getting attention over the white, boxy Nike Venturer mesh masks most of the athletes have worn during the events. On social media, there has been no shortage of jokes comparing the masks to fictional characters such as Bane and Hannibal Lecter.
As it turns out, the high-performance masks were intentionally designed for “optimal breathability” with both form and function in mind—and will soon be available to purchase for $60 retail.
The optimized fit masks come in five different sizes with a moldable nose wire and adjustable straps that can loop behind the head for added security or be changed to sit behind the ears when not performing. The masks are perfect for athletes since the soft, yet sturdy exterior won’t collapse during even the most strenuous workouts but still have a lightweight feel.
Additionally, the unique angular shape pays homage to the host country, in that the pleats are meant to imitate the folds of Japanese origami.
Though the masks don’t offer any greater protection than a typical mask, the comfortable, fashionable design is intended to encourage use.
“The more comfortable a mask is, the more likely it is to be worn,” Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Prevention. “As the next generation masks are developed, ease of wear is a very important parameter to incorporate.”
But the Nike Venturer masks aren’t the only facial coverings making headlines. Team USA shot putter Raven Saunders also got people talking with her Joker mask that perfectly accentuated her green and purple-dyed hair. Russian swimmer and feline enthusiast Evgeny Rylov wore a cat-face mask while collecting his swimming gold medal for the 100-meter backstroke, despite previously being told by organizers that his unusual face covering would not be permitted.
Team USA fencers also made headlines by wearing pink masks in protest against their teammate, alternate Alen Hadzic, who was accused of sexual misconduct.
Outside of the U.S., many other countries coordinated their masks to match the athletes’ uniforms or demonstrated patriotism with masks that resembled national flags or colors. Both China and Denmark have likewise received high marks for their sharp and stylish looks.