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China Isolates Foreign Olympic Athletes for COVID, Jeopardizing Their Participation in Games

Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: February 2, 2022
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Workers wearing full personal protective kit spray disinfectant at Banqan Service Area on February 2, 2022 in Yanqing, China. (Image: Carl Court/Getty Images)

More than 200 of some 8,000 foreign arrivals for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Feb. 1, prompting the Chinese authorities to isolate them in accordance with the regime’s “Zero-COVID” policies. 

Those who have been isolated are likely to miss out on the Games, which are starting on Feb. 4. Athletes under quarantine can only take part if they receive two consecutive negative tests within 24 hours. 

According to the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee, between Jan. 23 and Jan. 31, 8,107 athletes, officials, and other personnel had entered China. Of those, about 200 or 2.5 percent tested positive upon entry. 

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken extremely stringent measures in an effort to eradicate COVID-19 from China, often resulting in food shortages, medical emergencies, and manufacturing disruptions across the country. 

Authorities recently lifted a weeks-long lockdown in the northwestern metropolis of Xi’an, where residents complained of multiple tragedies and other abuses during that period. 

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In Beijing, the authorities have set up a “closed-loop bubble” to separate foreigners arriving for the Olympics from the general population. 

Emma Terho, chair of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission and a double bronze medallist in ice hockey from Finland, was put into isolation after she tested positive for COVID-19 at the Beijing airport. 

Notably, Terho was scheduled to meet with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who last November accused retired CCP leader Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Her whereabouts and safety have become a matter of concern in the international sporting community, despite Beijing’s assurances that she is free and well.