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Taboo in Tokyo: Tattoos are on display at Olympics

Tattoos remain stigmatized in Japan but there aren't restrictions in showing off your ink in the Olympic bubble.

Taboo in much of Tokyo, tattoos are everywhere at the Olympics.

There’s the lion on British swimmer Adam Peaty’s shoulder. An inspirational message on the arm of Chinese 3-on-3 basketball player Yan Peng. A likeness of Christ the Redeemer on the calf of Spanish boxer Gabriel Escobar Mascunano.

And the Olympic rings. So many Olympic rings.

French swimmer Fantine Lasaffre has them on her left forearm, and American shooter Kayle Browning on her right wrist. They’re on Moroccan boxer Abdelhaq Nadir’s left bicep, and on the ankle of Canadian gymnast Shallon Olsen.

Shallon Olsen, of Canada, performs on the balance beam during the women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo.Natacha Pisarenko / AP
A swimmer walks on the pool deck before racing at the Tokyo Aquatic Center at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Matthias Schrader / AP
Poland Zofia Noceti-Klepacka competes during race 2 of the women's RS:X class at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Fujisawa, Japan.Gregorio Borgia / AP
Chile's soccer player Yenny Acuna warms up prior women's soccer match against Canada at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Sapporo, Japan.Silvia Izquierdo / AP

Italian gymnast Vanessa Ferrari has them, too, on the back of her neck — along with ink commemorating previous trips to the Beijing, London and Rio de Janiero Games.

Athletes won’t do much mingling with locals at these pandemic-restricted Olympics. If they did, they might not find their body art as welcome. Tattoos remain stigmatized in Japan, where those with them are commonly banned from beaches, gyms, pools and elsewhere around Japan.

No such restrictions in the Olympic bubble, though. In the pool, on the beach, at the range — the athletes are redefining what it means to have the mark of a champion.

Vanessa Ferrari, of Italy, performs during the women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo.Natacha Pisarenko / AP
Ivan Iakovlev, of the Russian Olympic Committee, prepares to serve during the men's volleyball preliminary round pool B match between United States and Russian Olympic Committee at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.Manu Fernandez / AP
Morocco's Abdelhaq Nadir, right, blocks a punch by Mauritius' Louis Richamo Colin during their men's lightweight 63kg boxing match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Frank Franklin II / AP
Kaylee Mckeown of Australia leaves the pool after her heat in the women's 100-meter backstroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Martin Meissner / AP
A United States player stands with an Olympic ring tattoo on her foot during a preliminary round women's water polo match against Japan at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Mark Humphrey / AP
A swimmer gestures during a training session at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre venue for the swimming competitions at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Martin Meissner / AP
Adam Peaty, of Britain, swims the men's 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Petr David Josek / AP
France's Fantine Lesaffre adjusts her cap during a training session at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre venue for the swimming competitions at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Martin Meissner / AP
Shota Mishvelidze of Georgia prepares to compete in the men's 61kg weightlifting event, at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Luca Bruno / AP
China's Yan Peng has a tattoo on his arm during a men's 3-on-3 basketball game against Latvia at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Jeff Roberson / AP
A tattoo of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games decorates the body of Joana Heidrich, of Switzerland, as she prepares to serve against Germany during a women's beach volleyball match, at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Petros Giannakouris / AP
Ivan Iakovlev, of the Russian Olympic Committee, prepares to serve during the men's volleyball preliminary round pool B match between United States and Russian Olympic Committee at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Manu Fernandez / AP
Nyjah Huston of the United States competes in the men's street skateboarding at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Jae C. Hong / AP
Ivan Girev, of the Russian Olympic Committee, prepares to start in his heat during the men's 200-meter freestyle at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Matthias Schrader / AP
Water droplets fall down the back over a Olympics rings tattoo of Townley Haas, of the United States, swims at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Charlie Riedel / AP

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A swimmer walks on the pool deck before racing at the Tokyo Aquatic Center at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Matthias Schrader / AP