China bans foreign fans in staggering move for Winter Olympics

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People in China, pictured here preparing for the Winter Olympics.
Foreign fans are banned from attending the Winter Olympics in 2022. Image: Getty

Foreign fans will be banned from attending the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing after organisers outlined strict Covid-19 rules for the event on Wednesday.

The International Olympic Committee revealed that only fans from mainland China will be able to attend the Games, which take place from February 4-20.

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Fans who are allowed to attend will still need to meet some yet to be decided coronavirus criteria.

Vaccination for athletes is not mandatory to compete, but unvaccinated athletes must undergo a 21-day quarantine upon arrival in China. 

"Athletes who can provide a justified medical exemption will have their cases considered," the IOC said.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated athletes will then operate in a coronavirus bubble until they leave China.

The IOC said among the principles were that all fully vaccinated participants would enter what it called a "closed-loop management system" immediately upon their arrival, within which they will move freely.

This will cover all Games-related areas and stadiums as well as accommodation, catering and the opening and closing Ceremonies, served by a dedicated transport system.

All domestic and international Games participants as well as the workforce in the system will be tested daily.

The same rules will apply to the subsequent Paralympic Games.

Overseas fans were also banned from the Tokyo Olympics this summer with only a few events attended by Japanese, but overseas athletes did not have to quarantine.

People wearing protective masks, pictured here in front the logos for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
People wear protective masks as they walk in front the logos for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

It will be the second-consecutive Olympics during the pandemic where families of athletes cannot visit the host country to watch the events.

The IOC acknowledged “all parties feel for the athletes and the spectators from around the world.”

However residents of the host country should be able to attend the 109 medal events after spectators were barred from nearly all of the 339 events in Tokyo.

“Tickets will be sold exclusively to spectators residing in China’s mainland, who meet the requirements of the Covid-19 countermeasures,” the Olympic body said, though details were not given.

Guests of stakeholders such as sports bodies, sponsors and broadcasters will also be excluded again.

The Chinese capital will become the first city to host both summer and winter Olympics after also staging the Summer Games in 2008.

"This will facilitate the growth of winter sports in China ... as well as bringing a favourable atmosphere to the venues," the IOC said.

Controversy over 2022 Winter Olympics in China

The Beijing Games will go ahead amid controversy and calls to boycott the event on human rights grounds.

A vocal core of international lawyers, politicians and activists have brought pressure on Olympic sponsors, sports federations, governments and athletes to shun what they are branding as the “Genocide Games” because of reported human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs, Tibetans and other minorities in China.

Those calls have largely been met with silence, although Canada’s House of Commons voted 266-0 in a non-binding referendum that China is committing genocide against more than one million Uyghurs and called for the IOC to move the Olympics from Beijing.

The Dutch parliament passed a similar motion, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he believes genocide is being committed against the Uyghurs.

Earlier this year the state-run tabloid Global Times said countries who boycott the 2022 Games can expect serious sanctions.

“IOC and athletes will both oppose it, and China will seriously sanction any country that follows such a call,” Hu Xijin tweeted.

An editorial published in the Global Times also described the boycott calls as a “hostage” situation.

“China is a sporting and economic power with growing political influence," the editorial read.

"If any country is encouraged by extremist forces to take concrete actions to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, China will definitely retaliate fiercely.

“China certainly has the resources and means to do that.”

with agencies

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