‘It has been the craziest 24 hours’: Chaotic Winter Olympics Covid rules exposed in dramatic curling U-turn

Tahli Gill competed in the mixed curling after returning a positive Covid test   (Getty Images)
Tahli Gill competed in the mixed curling after returning a positive Covid test (Getty Images)

Olympic organisers’ chaotic approach to Covid rules was exposed in scenes of high farce in Beijing on Sunday.

Australian curler Tahli Gill was left in tears after being told she’d be sent to an isolation facility after testing positive for coronavirus.

But just hours later she was granted a reprieve when the Chinese Public Health System decided she could compete, giving her just minutes to reach the venue.

The Australian Olympic Committee revealed that Gill, who competes with mixed doubles partner Dean Hewett, had contracted Covid while playing in Canada in December and was being managed under ‘close contact rules’ - despite repeatedly testing negative before arrival in the country.

However, ongoing testing - all those involved at the Games must complete a daily PCR test - had alternated between negative and positive, with the decision finally taken she could no longer compete, before a dramatic U-turn hours later.

“We made the case that Tahli was at the end of the infection cycle but further positive results then ended our hopes,” said team boss Geoff Lipshut. “I’m delighted that our headquarters team continued pressing her case, after earlier advice that the pair could no longer compete.”

Chinese authorities apply a higher ‘CT value’ to their testing, meaning many who show negative results at home can test positive in country - this especially affects those who have recently had the virus but are no longer considered to be contagious.

“It was really devastating given that I wasn’t infectious,” admitted Gill, who returned to the ice to claim Australia’s first win of the Games.

“It has literally been the craziest, craziest 24 hours. My bags are still packed, I only just had time to pull out my uniforms.

“I was ruffling through my bags and ripping clothes out left, right and centre. I played with only one glove on - and it was the wrong one.”

Yesterday British short track speed skater Farrell Treacy revealed he’d tested positive in mid-January and had been told he wouldn’t be able to travel, before a last-minute change of heart by officials.

“I tested positive before I came out and with all the Covid protocols in China it was looking very unlikely that I’d be here,” he said.

“I was having tests every day to get negatives and the anxiety was crazy. The protocols were ever changing and one day I was told ‘sorry it’s not going to happen’ but that next day that changed. It’s pretty hard to focus on competing when you are coping with that.”

Meanwhile, organisers were hit with further criticism over quarantine conditions for athletes, with German chef de mission Dirk Schimmelpfennig describing them as ‘unacceptable’.

Three-time Olympic Nordic combined gold medallist Eric Frenzel has complained about facilities, while Russian biathlete Valeria Vasnetsova took to Instagram in a bid to raise attention.

“My stomach hurts, I’m very pale and I have huge black circles around my eyes,” Vasnetsova wrote in a post on social media. “I want all this to end, I cry every day and I’m very tired.”

Organising committee general secretary Han Zirong promised to respond ‘effectively’ but IOC officials admitted conditions were ‘not good enough’ and demanded improvements.

“The conditions that have been created for isolation facilities have been addressed,” said Games executive director Christophe Dubi.

“It is very unfortunate that it affected an athlete and let’s be very thorough in the future to make sure that conditions, food and size of the rooms, are perfect for the athletes.”

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