The International Olympic Committee said Sunday it has relaxed COVID-19 protocols at the Tokyo Olympics to allow medalists to take off their masks for up to 30 seconds on the podium to be photographed.

The relaxation of the rule was decided on condition that medalists are physically distanced, while they are still required to wear masks when they take a group photo at the victory ceremony.

Naohisa Takato (2nd from L) of Japan celebrates on the podium after winning the men's judo 60-kilogram event of the Tokyo Olympics at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on July 24, 2021, along with silver medalist Yang Yung-wei (L) of Taiwan and bronze medalists Yeldos Smetov of Kazakhstan (2nd from R) and Luka Mkheidze of France. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The IOC said the change will "allow athletes to have an image for the media that captures their faces and their emotions during a unique moment in their sporting career, as well as to celebrate the achievements of all the medalists together."

The relaxed "playbook" protocols took effect Sunday and "will continue to be put into practice in all venues over the coming days."

Earlier in the day, IOC spokesman Mark Adams had warned athletes to keep their masks on even while celebrating after winning medals.

"It's not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have," he said at a press conference. "It's really in our own interest, the interest of everyone, and the interest of a safe and secure games that we do obey these rules."