If any athletes traveling to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics wanted to do some sightseeing in China, sample the local cuisine, or even do a little shopping, the International Olympic Committee shot those hopes down Wednesday. At the request of the organizers of Beijing 2022, the IOC said, China will try to keep the Winter Games free from COVID-19 through a "closed-loop management system," starting Jan. 23 and lasting until the end of the Paralympics.
"This closed-loop management system will cover all Games-related areas, including arrival and departure, transport, accommodation, catering, competitions, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies," the IOC announced after Wednesday's executive committee meeting. "Within the closed loop, participants will be allowed to move only between Games-related venues for training, competitions, and work. A dedicated Games transport system will be put in place." The Games begin Feb. 4.
The roughly 3,000 athletes and anyone else entering this bubble can choose between arriving fully vaccinated or quarantining for 21 days in China before the Games. The mandated innoculation or "its almost unthinkable alternative" represent "an unprecedented step during this pandemic," The New York Times reports. "No major sports league in the world has a mandate that all competitors be vaccinated, or face a similar multiweek isolation period, most likely without access to training, before being allowed to compete." Everyone in the closed loop will also be tested once a day.
This year's Tokyo Games also had strict COVID-19 measures, but they are porous by comparison. "Participants were not required to be vaccinated, nor sequestered if they were not, and while they were asked to try to remain within Games-affiliated venues, they were still afforded plenty of opportunities to interact with the outside world, including at convenience stores and local restaurants for takeout meals," the Times notes.
Still, the Beijing organizers are opening up the Winter Olympics in one significant way: Spectators will be permitted, albeit only if they are from mainland China. On the plus side, "this will facilitate the growth of winter sports in China by giving those spectators a first-hand Olympic and Paralympic experience of elite winter sports, as well as bringing a favorable atmosphere to the venues," the IOC said. "However, all parties feel for the athletes and the spectators from around the world."