With COVID-19 concerns still affecting international travel next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Beijing has been withdrawn as a travel itinerary for winter sport enthusiast.
The International Olympic Committee announced that no foreign spectators will be allowed to attend any events at the Winter Games (which begin Feb. 4) or the Paralympic Games, due to COVID-19 protocols in China.
Chinese residents, however, will be able to attend events. While obviously disappointing to fans who dreamed of attending the Games, Olympic organizing officials say limiting access is the best way to maintain the highest level of safety for the athletes as the pandemic continues.
“All parties feel for the athletes and the spectators from around the world, knowing that the restriction on spectators from outside mainland China had to be put in place in order to ensure the safe holding of the Games this winter,” IOC officials said in a statement.
Starting on Jan. 23 and continuing until the end of the Paralympics on March 13, all athletes and coaches will enter a closed-loop management system to guard against potential exposure to COVID-19 and to ensure what the IOC calls “safe delivery of the Games.”
Once people enter the closed-loop system, they will only be allowed to move between Games-related venues for training, competitions and work, until the end of the Games. A transit system exclusively for the Olympics will be put in place.
The audience restrictions mirror what occurred during the recent Summer Olympics in Japan, and in some ways may be even more constrained than the Tokyo Games were. The Games in China will keep stringent COVID-19 requirements in place, including requiring all athletes and Games participants to be fully vaccinated before entering the closed-loop system. They will also be subject to daily COVID-19 testing. Games participants who are not fully vaccinated must complete a 21-day quarantine that begins when they arrive in Beijing. Organizers will consider cases of athletes who can provide a justified medical exemption for not being vaccinated.
Tickets to events at the Winter Games will only be sold to spectators who live on China’s mainland. Local residents must also meet the requirements of the COVD-19 protocols. The exact COVID-19 requirements for Chinese locals and ticket arrangements are still being worked out and will likely be finalized by November.
Competing athletes will remain at the Olympic Village during their time in Beijing, while all others related to the delegations of the participating nations will stay in hotels the Olympic organizers have contracted that will comply with the Games’ COVID-19 countermeasures.
The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 4 and continue until Feb. 20. The Paralympic Winter Games will run from March 4 to 13.