Beijing Winter Olympics organisers said Monday they face “great pressure” because of Covid-19, as China ramps up preparations with a series of test events.
February’s Games could be the most restricted mass sporting event since the pandemic began, with no international spectators allowed and a vaccine mandate for anyone entering a strictly enforced “bubble”.
Those who have not been vaccinated, including athletes, must quarantine for 21 days on arrival in the Chinese capital before they go into the bubble.
Olympic organisers will trial many of the measures in a series of domestic test events, international competitions, and training for overseas athletes that will begin on Friday and last several weeks.
“We expect that over 2,000 overseas athletes, team officials, international technical officials, and timing and scoring professionals will come to China to participate in various competitions,” Yao Hui, venue management chief on the Beijing Winter Olympics organising committee, told a briefing.
“We face great pressure in epidemic prevention and control.”
China has virtually sealed off its borders to keep Covid infections out.
Ahead of the test events, it allowed entry to participants that are mainly from Asia, as well as Europe and North America.
For example, athletes from China, South Korea, and the Netherlands will participate in the speed skating test events, officials said.
The events cover a variety of sports, including skiing, snowboarding, luge, bobsleigh, and ice hockey.
They will take place in three main venues: Beijing, Yanqing district just outside the capital, and the city of Zhangjiakou in neighbouring Hebei province.
Organisers said they will ensure that test events are carried out using the same arrangements as the Winter Olympics.
Unlike the Tokyo Olympics, the Beijing Games will have spectators, albeit only people living in mainland China.
But the Winter Olympics bubble will be much stricter than it was in the Japanese capital.
Only fully vaccinated participants, including media and venue staff, can enter the “closed-loop management” bubble without a 21-day quarantine. They cannot leave the bubble for the duration of the Games.
“From when they enter the bubble to when they leave China, we will strictly enforce full-course point-to-point closed-loop management policies,” said Huang Chun, head of epidemic prevention and control on the organising committee.
“In the closed-loop, all event participants can only move between the competition venues and participate in activities related to their work, competition, and training. Other activities are not allowed.”
The 2022 Winter Olympics is scheduled for February 4-20.
Test events in certain sports were scheduled for last winter but cancelled due to the pandemic.