As Beijing gears up to welcome thousands of athletes and teams for
the Winter Olympics from 4 February, a recent first — and ongoing —
detection of the Omicron variant on 16 January begs the question: Is the
Olympic “bubble” tight enough?
This is with millions more Chinese expected to travel for the week-long Spring Festival and Chinese New Year end this month.
As of 19 January, infected cases have been spotted in the Chaoyang,
Fangshan, Fengtai and Haidian districts in China's capital. Low figures
compared to the surging numbers globally, but authorities are already on
This is since China has zero intention of lockdown or adjusting its
'closed loop' plan, which physically separates Games participants from
the local population. They have indicated instead to monitor closely for
new virus clusters.
"The overall situation remains under control,” said Huang Chun, from
the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic
Winter Games, in a SCMP report.
'Under control' in this context refers to the government's call for
residents to avoid interacting with Olympic-related personnel or even
vehicles; avoid "unnecessary travel" during the holidays; and proof of
negative test results for domestic travellers entering Beijing.
On the Games site, there will be mandatory routine testing for
participants; set up of hospital and isolation units; 50 ambulances on
standby in surrounding Games precinct, banning overseas spectators and
even shouting; while nothing — not even trash — will be allowed to leave
the Olympics bubble until the Games end.
is still unclear if domestic audiences are allowed to watch live,
although the International Olympics Committee announced on 17 January
that they would "invite groups of spectators to be present on site
during the Games...[who would] 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".
International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Director Christophe
Dubi declined to answer if there's a 'Plan B', because "having seen the
plan in action now, every day out there in the venues … it will not be
breached," he said in a SCMP report.
Protocols will only be adjusted in the event of a large-scale outbreak, according to Huang.
The Games will be held in three zones across Beijing, the city of
Zhangjiakou and the district of Yanqing between 4 and 20 February 2022,
and the Paralympic Winter Games will be held from 4 until 13 March 2022.
Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines will step up as a connecting hub for
the Winter Olympics, operating daily chartered flights for Singaporean
and overseas athletes and teams from 21 January until 16 March in what
Singapore's Minister for Transport S. Iswaran calls a "good opportunity"
to enhance people-to-people exchanges.
Not all international diplomats have found common ground though,
where the US, Australia, UK, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand,
Sweden and others will not be sending an official representation to the