Covid-19 Hits Preparations for Beijing Winter Olympics
23rd August 2021
Last modified on August 30th, 2021
The President of the International Ski Federation says the road to Beijing ‘will not be easy’ due to Covid-19. The Beijing Co-ordination Committee is planning Covid-19 safety measures as some call for boycotts due to China’s human rights record.
The Winter Games is due to take place February 4th – 20th 2022.
“If there’s anything that the last year-and-a-half has taught us it is to expect the unexpected and to be prepared for every scenario,” said the President of the International Ski Federation, Johan Eliasch.
“While modern technology has allowed us to combat the Covid-19 virus at rapid pace, it is still not eradicated and continues to pose a threat to our daily lives.
“We must accept that much like Tokyo, the pandemic may impact the Beijing Olympics.
“The world of winter sports will also come together for the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
“It will be the chance for winter sports to capture everyone’s imaginations and propel our sports and athletes into the global spotlight.
“But if Tokyo is any indication, the road to Beijing will not be easy.
“The last World Cup season showed us that this spirit of cooperation and collaboration is very much alive within FIS – and this will provide us with groundwork we need for the very important Olympic season.
“Furthermore, with this in mind, every winter sports stakeholder needs to be prepared that it will take a concerted effort by us all, and for all of us to come together in order to stage a successful and safe Winter Olympics.”
Beijing is set to become the first city to stage the summer and winter Olympics and Paralympics.
There are already concerns about whether spectators will be present due to the pandemic.
“Let’s see how the pandemic evolves around the globe and especially in China, and then let’s look at the consequence of participation for spectators,” Christophe Dubi, executive director of the International Olympic Committee told Bloomberg last month.
“We have heard a number of the athletes say, ‘What matters is that we can compete, and we’ve gotten used to participating even without spectators.’ But if you have the choice, you would prefer to have spectators.”
Tickets for the Beijing Games are not yet on sale, and China’s borders remain closed to international tourists.
“As we enter the Beijing Winter Olympics moment, strict epidemic prevention and control are the important premise for successfully hosting the Winter Olympics,” said the Organising Committee President Cai Qi to the Global Times newspaper.
“Event preparation, venue renovation and operation must be closely integrated with epidemic prevention and control measures.
“Each venue should set up a command centre to coordinate the relevant work.”
The Beijing 2022 IOC Coordination Commission chain, Juan Antonio Samaranch, has said he wants spectators present.
“We want to have spectators, within the limits of the Chinese and international health authorities allow.
“We need and we want to have spectators.”
Samaranch made his comments during the recent 138th IOC Session in Tokyo, during the Summer Olympics.
Juan Antonio Samaranch has also as expressed the International Olympic Committee’s desire to have the international community at Beijing 2022
“We need successful Games in Beijing next year,” Samaranch said.
“We want to have the international community there.”
There have been growing calls for boycotts due to China’s human rights record.
China has faced international criticism for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, its crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong and its policies towards Taiwan and Tibet.
One leading athlete has spoken out:
There remains the threat of boycotts due to China’s record on human rights.
According to Amnesty International, China’s human rights abuses include repression of minorities in the Xinjiang and Tibet regions.
Then there are the anti-democratic policies in Hong Kong.
A coalition representing Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong and Chinese Democracy groups has held a meeting with International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials to press for the Winter Olympic Games to be moved over alleged violations of human rights.
China has claimed that its Xinjiang’s internment camps are “vocational education centres”, maintaining that its policies in regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet are for national security reasons and to counter extremism.
In the UK the conservative politician and former Tory party leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, is one of several British politicians calling for a boycott of the Games.
Sir Iain says the UK should take a “strong position” including considering a boycott of the Games over alleged human rights abuse.
He is among the co-chairs of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, with politicians from 16 countries and two representatives from the European Parliament.
The group aims to reform how democratic countries approach China, with activities centred on safeguarding international rules-based order, upholding human rights, promoting trade fairness, strengthening security and protecting national integrity.
The former Conservative Party leader has accused China of being “dictatorial, aggressive and intolerant”.
The UK government has not committed itself one way or the other.
“Generally speaking, my instinct is to separate sport from diplomacy and politics but there comes a point where that may not be possible,” said the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last year to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
Any British boycott would likely consist of politicians and dignitaries not attending, rather than the Olympic team.
The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said that a decision had not yet been made over whether politicians or members of the Royal Family will attend the Games.
There will be seven new events at Beijing 2022:
- Men’s and women’s big air freestyle.
- Women’s monobob (or single person bobsled).
- Mixed team competitions in freestyle skiing aerials, ski jumping, and snowboard cross.
- A mixed relay in short track speed skating.
The International Ski Federation has called for everyone to work together.
“In 180 days, the world of winter sports will also come together for the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing,” said the President of the International Ski Federation, Johan Eliasch.
” It will be the chance for winter sports to capture everyone’s imaginations and propel our sports and athletes into the global spotlight. ‘One for all, all for one’ – Working together we shall make the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing a success.”