— Published 30 September 2021

For Beijing 2022, foreign spectators will be left behind

History is repeating itself. While the Tokyo Games are barely over, the organisers of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games (February 4th to 20th) have finally unveiled their anti-COVID-19 plan. It broadly follows the principles established before them by the Japanese. With one constant: the absence of spectators from abroad.

With less than five months to go before the opening of the Games, the official travel agencies of the National Olympic and Paralympic Committees can make up their minds: they will not sell a single ticket for Beijing 2022. The IOC announced it on Wednesday, September 29th, in a lengthy press release: the next Winter Games will not be held behind closed doors, at least not yet, but foreign spectators will be prevented from coming. Only Chinese residents will be admitted to the competition venues.

For the second time in a row, foreign spectators will not be allowed to attend the Games. Same cause, same consequence. But the important difference is that Chinese spectators may be allowed to attend the competitions. Their presence isn’t ruled out, but not entirely certain either. In its statement, the IOC did not mention the closed-door event scenario. But the Chinese still haven’t opened the ticket sales, proof that they haven’t formally decided to let the public come en masse to the venues yet.

The IOC press release states that the playbook for the Beijing Games, which details the sanitary measures taken to fight the spread of the virus, will not be published until the end of October. A second version will be updated in December. But the outlines are now known. They will not make anyone in the Olympic and Paralympic movement happy.

First of all, vaccination. It will not be compulsory, at least in the texts. In practice, the anti-vaccinators can already prepare themselves for the worst. “Participants in the Games who are not fully vaccinated will have to undergo a 21-day quarantine on arrival in Beijing,” the IOC explained in its press release.

Note: it will be possible for unvaccinated athletes to apply for an exemption from quarantine, but only on medical grounds. Their case will be examined.

Now for the tickets. They will be “sold exclusively to spectators residing in mainland China who comply with the requirements of the COVID-19 protection scheme”. But the IOC press release is very vague on the details of this scheme, as well as on the “ticketing arrangements”. They are still “under discussion and development”, the body explains. Clearly, all scenarios remain possible, including partial or total closure.

As with the Tokyo Games, the ban on entry will also apply to guests, partners and other people who do not have an operational role. The Olympic body even explained that its Executive Board had taken the decision to remove the “accompanying persons” category for all stakeholders.

Finally, travel. Unsurprisingly, the sanitary bubble will remain in place. It promises to be even more opaque than the one deployed by the Japanese around the Tokyo Games.

From January 23rd 2021 until the end of the Paralympic Games, i.e. March 13th, 2021, a closed-circuit management system will be implemented to ensure the safety of the Games. It will cover all areas related to the Games, including arrivals and departures, transportation, accommodation, catering, competitions, and the opening and closing ceremonies. Internally, accredited persons will only be allowed to travel between Games-related venues for training, competition and work.

As for the rest, nothing much is new. Participants in the Tokyo Games will probably feel like they are reliving a soap opera that has already been broadcast. The media, in particular, will only be able to stay in official hotels reserved by the organising committee. Screening tests will be carried out daily. As for the tracking applications, we will have to wait for the publication of the playbook to know the details. But they too will certainly be part of the Olympic package.