Beijing Games organisers say virus 'biggest challenge'

Protecting the Beijing Winter Olympics from the coronavirus is the "biggest challenge", organisers said Wednesday, as millions of people in China were under stay-at-home orders to contain small outbreaks 100 days before the Games, News.Az reports citing AFP. 

The Chinese capital will in February become the first host of a Summer and Winter Games, and last week welcomed the Olympic flame with a low-key ceremony.

Case numbers remain relatively low in China, with only three reported in Beijing on Wednesday and small clusters of infections elsewhere, but authorities nationwide are on edge.

The Chinese government has maintained a zero-Covid approach through rigorous measures that have seen millions told to stay at home, mass testing across at least 11 provinces and many flights and trains brought to a standstill.

"The pandemic is the biggest challenge to the organisation of the Winter Olympics," Zhang Jiandong, executive vice president of the Beijing Organising Committee, told a press conference.

China's strict rules "can reduce the risks and impact of Covid-19", he said, adding that those in the Games' stringent bubble who do not comply with anti-epidemic measures will face consequences including disqualification.

Zhang told reporters that "all preparations are complete" and venues finished.

Coming just six months after the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Games, the Winter Olympics will be held in a "closed loop" bubble.

The estimated 2,900 athletes must be fully vaccinated or face 21 days' quarantine upon arrival.

Some of the 2008 Summer Games venues will be used during the winter spectacle, including the "Bird's Nest" national stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies.

But only people living in China will be allowed to buy tickets to attend the Games, which run from February 4 to 20.

Officials in Hebei, which neighbours Beijing, said Wednesday that the province was building mobile labs to handle up to 40,000 samples for daily Covid-19 tests during the Games.


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