The Olympic Games are an unmatched global event that allows the world's best athletes to come together and compete in one place. And while certain competitions and rules have changed over time, people worldwide look forward to watching the international gathering every four years as a time-honored tradition. But, as the realities of hosting the Winter Games amid the COVID-19 pandemic settle in, officials in host country China have announced that they will be banning something unusual from the Olympics this year. Read on to see how the storied competition will be different this time around.
Officials have announced they won't be selling tickets to spectators for the Olympics.
In a statement released on Jan. 17, the Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee announced that it would be stopping all spectator tickets sales to athletic events and ceremonies for the upcoming Games in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. "In terms of the grim and complex situation of epidemic prevention and control [and] in order to protect the health and safety of Olympic personnel and spectators, we have decided to change the original plan of public ticket sales," the committee said in the release.
All selected attendees must "strictly comply with COVID-19 prevention and control requirements."
As a result of these changes, officials said tickets would instead be distributed to "targeted" groups, expanding on a previous decision that would only allow residents of mainland China to attend events on-site. "The organizers expect that these spectators will strictly abide by the COVID-19 countermeasures before, during, and after each event so as to help create an absolutely safe environment for the athletes," the international committee wrote in its statement.
Along with the attendance regulations, the Games' organizers had also previously announced that all events will be held using a "closed loop." The preventive system will surpass even the levels of security seen during the Tokyo Summer Games by limiting the number of spectators, barring international attendees, and isolating all athletes, journalists, spectators, and journalists between the three venues hosting the events by prohibiting all contact with people outside of the loop, The New York Times reports.
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Beijing reported its first Omicron case just days ago.
The decision to ban ticket sales comes less than a month before the Games begin on Feb. 4 and less than two days after Beijing reported its first case of the highly transmissible Omicron variant on Jan. 15. This is despite extreme precautions that have been in place in recent weeks, including a travel ban into Beijing from surrounding cities where infections had been reported, the cancelation of dozens of international and domestic flights into the city, and a request from authorities that Beijing residents cancel all travel over the traditionally busy upcoming Lunar New Year celebration, The Times reports.
Some visiting athletes will have an additional set of requirements to meet before competing.
But spectators aren't the only people the committee is enforcing restrictions upon. While athletes are not required by the IOC to be vaccinated to compete, any who are unvaccinated must quarantine for 21 days upon arrival in Beijing before being allowed to enter the "closed loop." Participants will then be tested for the virus daily. Any athlete or worker who tests positive will be prohibited from competing or taking part in events and sent to an isolation facility or designated hospital for treatment, CNN reports.