Image: Wikimedia Commons / Pierre de Coubertin
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Pierre de Coubertin

Beijing Winter Olympics to admit spectators from mainland China only

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have confirmed that the only people allowed to attend the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China, are those who live in China.

In a statement, the IOC said: “Tickets will be sold exclusively to spectators residing in China’s mainland, who meet the requirements of the Covid-19 countermeasures. Specific requirements on Covid-19 countermeasures for spectators from China’s mainland and the details of ticketing arrangements are under discussion and development, and will be released to the public in due course once they are finalised.”

According to the statement, these measures were put in place after consultations with international experts and the Chinese authorities.

The IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said that restricting the sale of tickets will “facilitate the growth of winter sports in China by giving those spectators a first-hand Olympic and Paralympic experience of elite winter sports”.

This information is the first glimpse into China’s plans to hold the Winter Olympics while enforcing a strict zero-Covid strategy.

The Games will be held in a bubble, described by officials as a “closed-loop management system”, from 4-20 February. The bubble will be in place from 23 January until the end of the Winter Paralympics on 13 March, and will cover all stadiums and competition venues, as well as accommodation, catering, and the opening and closing ceremonies. It will also have its own transport system.

Apart from the challenges posed by the pandemic, the Beijing Games also face intense political pressure

The IOC said: “Within the closed loop, participants will be allowed to move only between Games-related venues for training, competitions and work.”

Athletes and other participants who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the bubble without quarantine. Those who are not fully vaccinated will have to spend 21 days in quarantine upon arrival. Covid testing will be carried out daily and athletes, coaches and officials will stay in special hotels.

The IOC statement said “athletes who can provide a justified medical exemption will have their cases considered”, adding that all vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization or approved by the countries or regions concerned will be accepted.

The mandated vaccination or the quarantine requirements represent “an unprecedented step during this pandemic”, according to The New York Times. It writes: “No major sports league in the world has a mandate that all competitors be vaccinated, or face a similar multi-week isolation period, most likely without access to training, before being allowed to compete.”

Further details about how the Games will run will be set out in two “playbooks” – the first is due in late October, and the second in December.

Apart from the challenges posed by the pandemic, the Beijing Games also face intense political pressure. Calls are growing for a diplomatic boycott over human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, where up to two million Uyghurs and other Muslims minorities are believed to have been placed in a network of detention centres.

The country is also facing international pressure from the World Health Organisation and other entities who are exploring the origins of the Covid pandemic, particularly due to its perceived lack of transparency.

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