China had already banned foreign spectators from attending the Winter Games which begin in Beijing in less than a month. On Monday, he announced that most Chinese people will also be unable to attend.
Citing the evolving threat of the coronavirus pandemic, the Beijing 2022 organizing committee announced it was ending ticket sales for events “to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators”.
The decision came less than two days after health authorities reported the first case of the Omicron variant in Beijing and ordered an immediate lockdown and mass testing in one of the capital’s districts.
The outbreak, though so far limited, has punctured extraordinary efforts to isolate Beijing, including a travel ban on the city, in part to ensure the Olympics would be affected as little as possible.
The organizers committee said it had created a “tailored programme” to allow some spectators, suggesting groups that had been sufficiently screened and quarantined should be invited to attend.
These could involve government employees, sponsors or government officials, but the committee did not elaborate, except to clarify that the public would not be able to purchase tickets, which were not yet available. for sale.
The International Olympic Committee then released a statement that largely echoed Beijing’s.
“The organizers expect these spectators to strictly adhere to the Covid-19 countermeasures before, during and after each event in order to help create an absolutely safe environment for the athletes,” the international committee said. declaration noted.
The Winter Games, which start on February 4, will now be held like Tokyo, which also banned most spectators ahead of last year’s Summer Games. Chinese authorities, who had defiantly pursued to fill halls with spectators, now had to bow to the grim realities of the pandemic.
Even before ticket sales ended on Monday, organizers had already drafted health protocols that far exceeded those of Tokyo. They have created a “closed loop” system that will isolate athletes, spectators, journalists and Olympic workers in the three groups of venues where the events will take place.
Until Monday, organizers had hoped they could allow vaccinated and tested spectators to buy tickets to enter the three “bubbles”, which include the main Olympic Village in Beijing, site of the 2008 Summer Games; and the two mountain groups north of the capital, Zhangjiakou and Yanqing.
Anyone who entered from China would still have had to quarantine for 21 days after leaving, an effort to protect the general population from exposure by foreign visitors.
Even with such extraordinary measures, the organizers no longer felt they could risk the interaction between the population outside the event and the international crowd that is beginning to arrive.
In recent weeks, China has aggressively sought to eradicate a string of simultaneous outbreaks under the government’s “zero tolerance” policy for the coronavirus. Last week, more than 20 million people were confined to their homes in cities across China, including Tianjin, a port city just 70 miles east of Beijing.