Beijing marks 100 days to Winter Olympics amid virus concerns

Published October 28, 2021
A person passes by at a display of the 100-day countdown to the opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Wednesday. —Reuters
A person passes by at a display of the 100-day countdown to the opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Wednesday. —Reuters

BEIJING: With 100 days until the start of the Winter Olympics, Beijing is promising a “simple and safe” 2022 Games — although preparations are anything but simple as China readies to host thousands of athletes and personnel as it battles flare-ups of Covid-19.

Beijing will be the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Games, but the 2022 event is shadowed by the coronavirus pandemic and calls from human rights groups for a boycott over China’s treatment of Tibet, Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong.

The Games will run Feb 4 to 20, with all participants subject to daily Covid-19 tests and no international spectators. Unlike this year’s Tokyo Summer Games local spectators will be allowed at events in and around the Chinese capital.

Vice mayor and Beijing 2022 organising committee official Zhang Jiandong told reporters on Wednesday that those taking part in the Games must remain in a “closed loop” for training, competing, transport, dining and accommodation.

A strict Olympic bubble has long been on the books, but Beijing has now made it official in keeping with its zero tolerance approach to the pandemic.

“All participants of the Games and our Chinese staff and volunteers will implement the same policy,” Zhang said. “They will be strictly separated from the external society.”

Those who do not comply with the epidemic prevention regulations may face severe consequences such as warning, temporary or permanent cancellation of registration, temporary or permanent disqualification or expulsion from the competition, and other punishment.

All participants must have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to their departure for China.

“If we cannot be Covid-19 secure, then we will not have hosted the Olympics successfully,” he said.

In addition to the pandemic, boycott calls are also casting a shadow over the Games.

Human rights activists last week disrupted the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece. Campaigners have accused Beijing of repression in the northwestern Xinjiang region as well as Hong Kong and Tibet.

China has consistently railed against what it calls the “politicisation of sport”.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2021

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