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Here's why the seats at the Olympics are different colors

A fan-less stadium at the Tokyo Olympics leaves those watching on television to see a backdrop of multi-colored seats.

TOKYO, Japan — The 2020 Olympics in Japan are coming to a close and thousands of world class athletes are wrapping up after record breaking performances in athletic events, many of which were held at the brand new national stadium in Tokyo.

Holding the biggest international sporting event during an era in which the COVID-19 pandemic is still prevalent forced Tokyo to make drastic decisions to prioritize health. 

One of these resolutions includes not allowing fans at this year's international games. Fan-less stadiums leave a silent atmosphere and, of course, empty seats, as there are no spectators to contribute to the feel of competition.

Audiences have been left seeing a backdrop of multi-colored chairs while they watch televised Olympic events.

So why are the seats inside the stadium different colors?

“The mosaic design is a natural solution to the problem of no spectators at the Olympics,” Japanese architect Kengo Kuma told Slate in July. “By accident, the idea is perfectly fitting the situation with COVID.”

According to the Olympics website, Kuma designed the stadium to fit 60,000 people, and the earth-toned gradient allows the mighty venue to feel more full.

Credit: AP
Competitors start in their heat of the men's 100-meters with empty seats as a backdrop in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Japan Sport Council spokesman Takeo Takahashi said the colors create "an atmosphere where people can feel close" when the new national stadium was officially unveiled in December 2019.

The Olympic website says the seats are a combination of white, olive green, and dark brown, with darker colors places closer to the field and lighter colored seating closer to the roof to create a "mosaic."

Though from afar, the seats at the stadium provide an optical illusion that fans are present, close up camera cuts of dozens of rows of empty seats and moments of silence in television coverage serve as a reminder of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.