As preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics carry on in Beijing, organizers now face the looming threat of the new omicron variant of Covid-19.
Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, addressed concerns over the omicron variant’s effects on the staging of the 2022 Winter Olympics during a press briefing on Tuesday.
Zhao stated, “I believe it [omicron] will definitely pose some challenge to our efforts to prevent and control the virus, but as China has experience in preventing and controlling the coronavirus, I fully believe that China will be able to host the Winter Olympics as scheduled, smoothly and successfully.”
His statements come at a turbulent time for the organizers of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Just this week, the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade was cancelled due to travel restrictions and complications related to the rise of the omicron variant.
Before that, organizers were faced with calls for a diplomatic boycott over the censorship and disappearance of tennis star, Peng Shuai, and other alleged human rights grievances under the Chinese government.
There has been no reporting to suggest that any country has come to a final decision on a diplomatic boycott, but the potential for countries to engage in a diplomatic boycott remains.
As for the omicron variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as a variant of concern. The effect of impending and ongoing travel restrictions and lockdowns on preparations and qualifications for the 2022 Winter Olympics remains unclear.
It is clear however that omicron will be yet another challenge for organizers to overcome as the 2022 Winter Olympics approach. The 2022 Winter Olympics are set to begin on February 4 and end on February 20, 2022.