Beijing 2022 organizers remain confident in COVID-19 countermeasures as fears of transmission grow

Organizers of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics continue to express their confidence in the systems put in place to control, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the Olympics, as athletes voice their concerns about the impact of the virus.

A Red cross ambulance member wears a protective suit to protect from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside the Main Press Centre ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China January 7, 2022.    REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A Red cross ambulance member wears a protective suit to protect from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside the Main Press Centre ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Beijing 2022 organizers have expressed confidence in their plans and systems in place to mitigate the spread and transmission of COVID-19 during the upcoming Winter Olympic Games.

Huang Chun, tasked with overseeing pandemic prevention efforts on behalf of the local organizing committee according to the South China Morning Post, stated he believes that “the overall situation remains under control.”

His comments come after multiple Chinese cities, including Wuxi and Tianjin, entered lockdowns over the discovery of the Omicron variant in local populations.

The situation has heightened fears over the spread of the virus in China, which has only added to the overall atmosphere of concern surrounding the Games. Those concerns also stem, in part, from noteworthy athletes testing positive for the virus in recent weeks, along with the cancellation of prominent international sporting events.

Emily Sweeney, recently selected to represent the United States in luge, summed up her concerns about COVID-19 at a recent press conference, stating, “the next two weeks for me are about maintaining speed and not getting COVID-19.”

Luge - Eberspacher Luge World Cup - Sigulda, Latvia - January 9, 2022 Emily Sweeney of the U.S. reacts after her second run of the women's singles REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
Luge - Eberspacher Luge World Cup - Sigulda, Latvia - January 9, 2022 Emily Sweeney of the U.S. reacts after her second run of the women's singles REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

She elaborated further, saying, “Athletes are getting COVID-19, family, friends; everyone is testing positive right now, and that freaks me out. I keep thinking of all the crappy situations I got through to get to this point, and that just feels like such a big risk.”

“To just be existing in this world right now. Because I have that dream, I have that second bid in my grasp. I’m alarmingly aware of it.”

Despite the concerns of athletes and other stakeholders, local organizers have remained confident in their ability to host the Winter Olympics. That confidence was backed up by the World Health Organization (WHO) also stated their confidence that the Winter Olympics could be held as planned.

Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, stated, “I’m confident that given the information we have, the measures that are in place for the Games are very strict and very strong and we don’t, at this point, see any increased risk of disease transmission in that context.”

He added, “We will continue to monitor the situation. But certainly at this stage, given the arrangements put in place for the athletes by the organizers, we don’t perceive there’s any particular extra-risk in hosting or running the Games.”

The Beijing Olympic Tower is pictured ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
The Beijing Olympic Tower is pictured ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Speaking on behalf of local organizers during a press conference held this week, Huang Chun said, “our medical team, prevention team and many experts have been paying attention to the spread of the virus and how much harm it might bring, we are continuing to assess it.”

He added, “but we are keeping the room for adjustment. If a large-scale [outbreak] happens, it will definitely affect the schedule of the Games.”

While uncertainties about the effect of the Omicron variant on the 2022 Winter Olympics linger, one concept about the Games that was made blatantly clear this week was the tightness of the closed-loop management system being employed for Beijing 2022.

In a post on Chinese social media platform, Weibo, Beijing’s Traffic Management Bureau stated, “In case of traffic accidents with special vehicles for the Winter Olympics, please pay attention to maintaining a safe distance.”

Adding, “do not make contact with vehicles or personnel in them and wait for professionals to arrive at the scene.”

The area near the the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, where the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held, is fenced off for the closed-loop area designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China, January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
The area near the the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, where the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held, is fenced off for the closed-loop area designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China, January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

It was later explained organizers had set up a special desk in the local emergency service system to help any Games participant hurt on the city’s roads according to the South China Morning Post.

It was also claimed that 50 ambulances had been put on standby near venues in Beijing and Zhangjiakou.

Huang Chun added, “if there is a sudden cardiac arrest, we also hope people with first aid skills at the scene can help out first.”