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Beijing will become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games after its Olympic debut in 2008, and last month organizers said preparations were “fully on track” for the Games are proceeding as planned.

But it was not easy. As with last year’s Summer Olympics, a series of Covid-19 countermeasures have been put in place ahead of the Games, which will again take place in a Covid-safe “bubble” system.

When the Games finally get underway with the Opening Ceremony on February 4 – until the Closing Ceremony on February 20 – nearly 3,000 athletes will compete in 15 disciplines across 109 events.

Beijing will then also host the Paralympic Games, which will take place from March 4 to 13.

How will the Games be staged amid the pandemic?

Organizers intend to hold Beijing 2022 in a closed-loop system that will only be accessible to Games participants – a plan that has remained in place despite the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

As outlined in a Games manual published in December, the closed-loop system will encompass venues, official hotels and the event’s own transport service.

Fully vaccinated participants will be able to enter the bubble without quarantine, while those who are not vaccinated will need to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival in Beijing.

Medical exemptions, considered on a case-by-case basis, may be granted to unvaccinated persons. Some countries, such as the United States and Canada, have required all team members to be vaccinated.

During the Games, participants will be subject to daily health monitoring and testing and will have no contact with the general public.

“The loop is very safe. It’s a place that I would say is very difficult to compare with any other place in the world right now because we have a fully vaccinated, often boosted, population here who are being tested. daily with a PCR and living in a closed loop,” Pierre Ducrey, director of Olympic Games operations for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), told reporters on January 12.

Ducrey added: “It’s called a closed loop for that very reason. It means there will be no contact between people outside the loop and inside the loop. . It was built to protect the people inside, as well as the people outside.”

The return of a confirmed positive test will mean that participants will not be able to compete or continue their role in the Games; those who are symptomatic will stay in a designated hospital for treatment, while those who are asymptomatic will be moved to an isolation facility.

Last month, Huang Chun, a member of the local organizing committee, agreed that the Games could bring “Covid-19 cases or small clusters of infections” to China given that “a large number of foreign personnel will congregate, resulting in a very high risk of transmission.”
During the pandemic, the country implemented a zero Covid policy of mass testing, extensive quarantines and instant lockdowns to eradicate any emergence of the virus.

As it stands, fans will be able to attend the Games, but only if they live in mainland China.

Where are the places?

While the Chinese capital, Beijing, is the official host city of the Games, the venues are spread over three areas: Beijing, Yanqing – a mountainous district 75 kilometers (about 46.6 miles) northwest of Beijing – and Zhangjiakou , a ski and snowboard destination. Another 100 kilometers (about 62.1 miles) beyond Yanqing.

Of the 13 venues hosting events, one – the National Speed ​​Skating Oval – was recently built in Beijing, while existing venues were also renovated for the Games.

The Beijing National Stadium, commonly known as the Bird’s Nest, will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Each of the three areas has its own Olympic Village, while all three are linked by a newly constructed intercity railway.

The National Aquatics Center (left) and National Indoor Stadium (right) will both host events during the Winter Olympics.

Who are the Olympic and Paralympic mascots?

The mascot for the Winter Olympics is Bing Dwen Dwen – a panda wearing an integral “shell” made of ice – and Shuey Rhon Rhon for the Paralympic Games, a Chinese lantern child.

Bing Dwen Dwen (Bing means “ice cream” in Mandarin Chinese, while Dwen Dwen means “child”) was chosen from more than 5,800 submissions from around the world.

The “shell” design allows the panda – China’s national animal – to skate, snowboard and ski.

Shuey Rhon Rhon (left) and Bing Dwen Dwen (right) are settled in Beijing on January 11.
According to the Paralympic website, Shuey has the same pronunciation as the Chinese character for “snow”, the first rhon means “include, tolerate” and the second means “melt, merge and warm”.

What is the political controversy surrounding Beijing 2022?

The United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom are among the countries that have announced diplomatic boycotts of the Winter Olympics.

This means that athletes from these countries will still be able to compete in Beijing, but no government representatives will be present.

In December, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the boycott would serve as a “clear message” against “the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”

According to the US State Department, up to two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have passed through detention centers in Xinjiang, which the Chinese government says are “vocational training centers” aimed at reducing poverty and to fight against religious extremism.

Following the announcement of the US diplomatic boycott, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the United States should “stop politicizing sports and exaggerating the so-called ‘diplomatic boycott’ so as not to affect China-US dialogue and cooperation in important areas.”

As for the athletes, the controversies surrounding the Games can present a moral dilemma. Last year, American ski star Mikaela Shiffrin, a three-time Olympic medalist, told CNN that “you certainly don’t want to be put in the position of having to choose between human rights, morality and the ability to do your job”.

Which athletes to watch?

Shiffrin, who recently returned to the Alpine Skiing World Cup circuit after contracting Covid-19, is expected to be one of Beijing’s hottest athletes. At the last Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, she won gold in giant slalom and silver in alpine combined.

Other familiar faces on Team USA will include snowboarder Shaun White, who predicts that this will be his last Olympics, 2018 halfpipe gold medalist Chloe Kim – the youngest woman to win an Olympic gold medal in snowboarding – and popular figure skater Nathan Chen.

Two-time figure skating gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan will face Chen in his bid for a third consecutive gold medal in the men’s singles event.

Mikael Kingsbury, the most decorated mogul skier of all time, will also travel to Beijing to try to defend his 2018 title.

China, less dominant at the Winter Olympics than at the Summer Games, won nine medals in 2018.

Nathan Chen breaks short program record at US Figure Skating Championships
Among the host nation’s best chances to win gold this time around is American-born freestyle skier Eileen Gu, who won the world titles in halfpipe and slopestyle last year.
According to sports data company Gracenote, Norway – whose athletes often excel in cross-country skiing and biathlon – should top the medal table with 45 medals ahead of the Russian Olympic Committee with 32, Germany with 25, and the United States and Canada. with 22.

Why will North Korea miss the Games?

North Korea is a country that has announced that it will not send athletes to Beijing.

According to the official KCNA news agency, a letter sent by the North Korean Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports to his Chinese counterpart cited “hostile forces” and the global pandemic as reasons for his non-participation. , accusing the United States and its allies of trying to prevent the successful opening of the Olympics.

The United States and its allies are becoming “increasingly disguised in their actions against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics,” says the letter, which does not explicitly cite diplomatic boycotts.

Last year, the IOC suspended the North Korean Olympic Committee until the end of 2022 as part of its sanction for its “unilateral decision” to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics, effectively preventing the country from officially competing. in Beijing.

The IOC said at the time that if any North Korean athletes were to qualify for the Winter Olympics through processes already underway, it would “take an appropriate decision in due course for the athlete(s) concerned.” .

North Korean athletes participated in the 2018 Games, with athletes from the North and South marching together under one flag in the opening ceremony. A North Korean delegation was also sent to South Korea during the Games.

CNN’s Nectar Gan contributed reporting for this article.