The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday released a preliminary set of health protocols for the upcoming Winter Games in Beijing that suggested the next Olympics, set to begin on February 4, could be. The most unusually restricted large-scale sporting event Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place in Beijing in what organizers have dubbed a “closed-loop management system”, a bubble-like environment where athletes, officials, broadcasters, journalists and a large gaming workforce will be forced to eat, sleep, work and compete without leaving from the day they arrive to the moment they leave.
Anyone, including athletes, intending to enter this bubble has two options: arrive in China fully vaccinated or prepare to spend the first 21 days in Beijing in solitary confinement.
And while spectators will be allowed to return to competition venues after being largely barred from the recent Summer Games in Tokyo, entry will be limited to residents of mainland China.
A more detailed plan for the Games is due in late October, but it is already clear that the Beijing Olympics organizers and the Chinese government will try to implement a level of control – with nearly 3,000 athletes, plus several thousand more. Game participants, including international journalists, volunteers and site staff – unlike anything seen before at the Games.
Beijing 2022 organizers submitted these preliminary protocols to the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday. International Olympic Committee, in the current situation, offered its full support for the restrictions.
Given the common goal of providing safe games, she said, “the IOC and the International Committee of the Red Cross fully respect the principles established by Beijing 2022.”
The Summer Olympics in Tokyo featured a much easier health protocol. Participants were not required to be vaccinated or isolated if not vaccinated, and while they were asked to try to stay inside the gaming venues, they still had plenty of opportunities to interact with the outside world, including at convenience stores and local takeaway restaurants.
Meanwhile, members of the local media and workforce at the event venue in Tokyo, were allowed to move to the Olympic stadiums from their homes. And after a 14-day period of stricter restrictions, all visitors to the games were given the freedom to move around the city as they wished.
The IOC said the so-called closed-loop management system planned in China would cover “all areas related to the Games, including arrival and departure, transportation, accommodation, catering, competitions, and the opening and closing ceremonies”.
The IOC statement suggested that no one within the system would be allowed to exit for any reason: “Within the closed-loop, participants will be allowed to move only between training venues, competitions and work. A dedicated system will be put in place to transport the Games.”
Those inside the bubble will also be tested for coronavirus daily.
The Beijing 2022 vaccination requirement – or the almost unimaginable alternative to athletes only three weeks in quarantine on the eve of the Games – represents an unprecedented step during this pandemic. No major sports league in the world has a mandate to vaccinate all competitors, or face a similar multi-week isolation period, likely without access to training, before allowing them to compete. The International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday that all vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization will be accepted and that athletes who have requested medical exceptions will be considered for their individual cases.
Many high-profile athletes around the world remain unvaccinated, and it remains to be seen how many potential Olympians will decide to skip the Beijing Olympics or subject themselves to a three-week quarantine rather than accept a vaccination in order to get to the Games. Athletes from the US are already facing their own vaccine mandate: Last week, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced that all of its athletes Vaccination will be required by December 1 If they hope to represent the delegation next year in China.
In another exit from the Tokyo Games, where fans have been banned completely, fans will be allowed to be in competition venues in Beijing in some form. But, according to the IOC, tickets will be limited to residents of mainland China “who meet the requirements for COVID-19 countermeasures.” The organization said the details of these requirements are still being discussed.
“Prone to fits of apathy. Introvert. Award-winning internet evangelist. Extreme beer expert.”