China to create ‘closed loop’ bubble for winter Olympics

The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday released a preliminary set of health protocols for the upcoming Winter Games in Beijing suggesting that the next Olympic Games, which start on February 4, could be the most extraordinarily restricted large-scale sporting event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in what the organizers called a “closed-loop management system,” a bubble-like environment in which athletes, officials, broadcasters, journalists and a large workforce of the Games will be forced to eat, sleep, work and compete, without going out, from the day they arrive until the moment they depart.

Anyone, including athletes, who wishes to enter this bubble has two options: arrive in China fully vaccinated or prepare to spend the first 21 days in Beijing in solitary quarantine.

And while spectators will be allowed to return to the competition venues after being largely excluded from the recent Summer Games in Tokyo, entry will be limited to those residing in mainland China.

A more detailed plan for the Games is due to be released in late October, but it is already clear that the organizers of the Beijing Olympics and the Chinese government will try to implement a level of control, of about 3,000 athletes, as well as several thousand more. Games participants, including international journalists, volunteers and members of the headquarters staff, beyond anything seen before at the Games.

The organizers of Beijing 2022 presented these initial protocols to the IOC executive board on Wednesday. The IOC, in a sentence, offered his full support to the restrictions.

Bearing in mind the common goal of providing safe Games, he said that “the IOC and the IPC fully respect the principles established by Beijing 2022.”

The Summer Olympics in Tokyo featured a much more porous health protocol. Participants were not required to be vaccinated, or abducted if they weren’t, and although they were asked to attempt to stay at the Games-affiliated venues, they were still offered many opportunities to interact with the outside world, including in the retail stores. convenience and premises. take away restaurants.

Meanwhile, members of the local media and task forces from the Tokyo venues were allowed to travel to the Olympic venues from their homes. And after a 14-day period of more severe restrictions, all visitors to the Games were free to move around the city as they wanted.

The so-called closed-loop management system planned in China, the IOC said, 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 could venture outside of it for any reason: “Within the closed circuit, participants will only be able to move between Games related venues for training, competition and work. A transport system dedicated to the Games will be put into operation. “

Those inside the bubble will also be subject to daily coronavirus testing.

The Beijing 2022 vaccination requirement, or its almost unthinkable alternative of just three weeks in quarantine for athletes on the eve of the Games, also represents an unprecedented step during this pandemic. No major sports league in the world is mandated that all competitors be vaccinated or face a similar period of isolation of several weeks, probably without access to training, before they are allowed to compete. The IOC said Wednesday that all vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization would be accepted and athletes applying for medical exemptions would have their individual cases “considered.”

Many prominent athletes around the world remain unvaccinated, and it remains to be seen how many potential Olympians will decide to skip the Beijing Games or undergo a three-week quarantine rather than accept the vaccination in order to gain access to the Games. America’s athletes already face their own vaccine mandate: Last week, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced that all of its athletes You should be vaccinated before December 1. if they expected to represent the delegation next year in China.

In another outing of the Tokyo Games, where fans were banned altogether, spectators will be allowed to enter the competition venues in Beijing in some way. But, according to the IOC, entries will be limited to those residing in mainland China “who meet the requirements of COVID-19 countermeasures.” The specific details of those requirements, the organization said, were still under discussion.

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