Why Olympic athletes in Japan must sign liability waivers

The Olympic rings monument sits outside the entrance of the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo, Japan, May 5, 2021. The International Olympic Committee is requiring athletes to sign liability waivers and take on all coronavirus-related risks. Photo by Shutterstock.

The 2021 Olympics are less than two weeks away, and Tokyo is entering another state of emergency prompted by a resurgence of COVID-19 in the region. The International Olympic Committee says the games will be safe, but it’s also making athletes personally take on all coronavirus-related risks by signing liability waivers.

“You have optics on the one hand — the IOC saying, ‘Oh, it's going to be safe and secure.’ And yet the substance of what they're doing is inserting legal language about liability that indicates they think there could be a very serious problem,” says Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins.