Astronauts Create Their Own Olympic Games Onboard the ISS

2020 Summer Olympics, but make it microgravity.
Irmak Bayrakdar
The current ISS crew ready for Space OlympicsThomas Pesquet/Flickr

The fiery Olympics spirit seems to have traveled far beyond the reaches of the Earth and has gone on to infect the astronauts on the International Space Station. 

This year's highly anticipated Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games kicked off on July 23rd after a five-year-long wait due to the pandemic, and we're all watching the games in excitement down here on Earth.

But we're not the only ones. 

Astronauts on the ISS have reportedly watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics and are cheering for their home countries competing in Tokyo. 

The very first Space Olympics

Astronauts Create Their Own Olympic Games Onboard the ISS
The current ISS crew posing for the ceremonial photo. Source: Thomas Pesquet/Flickr

As a tribute to the games, they've decided to join in on the fun in the name of sportsmanship and created their own "Space Olympics" in microgravity a week prior to Tokyo 2020's official beginning ceremony. To add to the gravity of the situation, the crew even went on to award Olympic medals to the winners. 

Astronauts Create Their Own Olympic Games Onboard the ISS
Megan McArthur awarding Thomas Pesquet his medal. Source: Thomas Pesquet/Flickr 

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet shared an Instagram post on July 24, saying: "Today the Olympics start in Tokyo, but we held the very first space Olympics last week!" For the space games, the crew split into two cohesive teams: the Soyuz team and the CrewDragon team. 

For the time being, Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA is the commander of the ISS. The rest of the crew includes Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and Thomas Pesquet of ESA. 

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A post shared by Thomas Pesquet (@thom_astro)

Ever heard of synchronized floating?

But what would be the sports of Space Olympics? Without gravity, the crew had to come up with original ideas. According to Pesquet, the events ranged from synchronized floating or lack-of-floor routine to (very) long jumps and no-hand ball. To make things more authentic, the team even hung mini flags of all the countries in the world to the roof of the ISS lab. Talk about an inclusive event. 

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Astronauts Create Their Own Olympic Games Onboard the ISS
The mini flags on the roof of the ISS lab. Source: Thomas Pesquet/Flickr 

In a previous exclusive interview with Tokyo 2020, Pesquet stated that he was a true sports fan and added that the ISS crew does two-and-a-half hours of exercise a day.

Pesquet also sent a good luck message through a video on the Olympics' official Instagram page saying that, "Here on the ISS, 248 miles (400 km) away from Earth, we are very much looking forward to watching the Olympic Games in Tokyo,... Good luck to all the athletes and all the best from space. We'll be watching." Now, that's what we call a message from above.