The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Wednesday that breastfeeding mothers will be permitted to bring their babies to Tokyo, updating the no-family-no-friends Covid-19 policy.
The change in policy comes after Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher, who is nursing her infant daughter Sophia, made an emotional plea to bring her 3-month-old with her to Tokyo.
Gaucher felt the IOC was forcing her to choose between the Olympics and her daughter. If she went to Tokyo alone, it would mean going 28 days without seeing her baby. Gaucher argued that if international media and sponsors and Japanese spectators can all attend the games, then she should be able to bring her baby.
“Japanese fans are going to be in attendance, the arenas are going to be half full, but I will not have access to my daughter?” Gaucher said. “We’ve tried appeals. Everyone says they’re on board, but nobody can do anything. Let’s see if we can make a difference. It’s 2021. Let’s make working moms normal.”
"Let’s make working moms normal.”
The Olympics-Tokyo organizers reconsidered the situation and decided to allow nursing babies to accompany their athlete mothers.
“Given that the Tokyo 2020 Games will take place during a pandemic, overall we must, unfortunately, decline to permit athletes’ family members or other companions to accompany them to the Games,” the organizers said. “However, after careful consideration of the unique situation facing athletes with nursing children, we are pleased to confirm that, when necessary, nursing children will be able to accompany athletes to Japan.”
Nursing babies must stay in approved hotels as the residential zone of the Olympic Village is limited to athletes and team officials.
The IOC commented on the decision: “We very much welcome the fact that so many mothers are able to continue to compete at the highest level, including at the Olympic Games. We are very pleased to hear that the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has found a special solution regarding the entry to Japan for mothers who are breastfeeding and their young children.”
Gaucher said, “I’m incredibly happy and very thankful for all the people who fought for this and helped out with this. There can be moments of frustration, but I think women’s sports is evolving and sometimes it takes a little bit of time for everyone to get on the same page. I’m happy that this decision has been made. The right decision for women in sports and we can move forward.”
"I’m happy that this decision has been made. The right decision for women in sports."
Women’s sports is also moving forward with pregnant heptathlete Lindsay Flach, who competed in the Olympic trials at 18 weeks pregnant. While Flach participated in all seven heptathlon events, she intentionally left the track about 100 meters into the 800-meter run, ending in 15th place out of 18.
"There are so many stories about running while pregnant and working out while pregnant, so I'm glad I could be a piece of proving a woman can do it," Flach said. "Woman and moms are so strong — their body is very capable."
"Even these 18 weeks I have learned mamas need way more praise than they receive," she said. "And are capable of way more than people allow or give them credit for."