The 2022 Winter Olympics is scheduled to kick off in Beijing starting on Feb. 4. However, the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has raised concerns about how the games will be conducted, especially if a larger wave of infection hits the country.
Beijing plans to only fill a few seats with spectators. The National Stadium in Beijing is slated to host the men’s ice hockey event during the Games. It has 18,000 seats. But only 6,000 will be made available to the public. However, it is also possible that no spectator may be allowed to attend the games under extreme circumstances.
“The number of seats to be opened depends on the epidemic situation in Beijing and nationwide at the time of the event,” Lei Ming told the state-backed Global Times. Lei Ming is from the National Stadium’s arena operations team. If spectators are allowed, only those who are fully vaccinated and have tested negative for COVID-19 during the previous 48 hours will be allowed entry. Baffles will be placed in between the seats to prevent any spread of the virus from one individual to another.
All closed-loop personnel, which includes athletes, staff, and members of the media, will need to get tested daily. Only those with negative results will be allowed inside. Athletes and staff are forbidden from moving between venues on their own. They have to use exclusive shuffle buses to travel. The service personnel will enter the closed-loop a few days before the Games begin. They can only leave after the Winter Paralympic Games in March.
During a recent media briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated that the regime expects the Games to proceed “smoothly” on schedule despite the threat posed by the Omicron variant.
“I believe it will definitely pose some challenge to our efforts to prevent and control the virus, but as China has experience in preventing and controlling the coronavirus, I fully believe that China will be able to host the Winter Olympics as scheduled, smoothly and successfully,” Zhao stated.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is expected to make the COVID-19 rules of the Games public within the next few weeks.
“The latest developments regarding COVID-19 reinforce the importance of all the measures included in the Playbooks, which can be further adapted if necessary to match any particular circumstances and ensure safety of all in an evolving context,” the IOC said in a statement.