Beijing 2022 Olympics to be Held without International Spectators

Heather Qin ‘24

The International Olympic Committee announced that the Beijing 2022 Olympics and Paralympics will only sell tickets to spectators residing in mainland China as part of the nation’s zero-tolerance Covid-19 policy to keep all participants in a ‘closed loop’ for the duration of the games (1).


China’s decision, made to combat pandemic concerns, echoes a similar plan implemented for the duration of the Summer Olympics held just months before, albeit with more stringent guidelines. Athletes attending the Winter Olympics will be permitted to interact as normal, provided that they stay within the closed loop and undergo Covid testing daily. The aforementioned closed loop mandates that all people arriving at the Olympics will be confined to a group of exclusive hotels, venues, and transport specifically designated for the event (2). In addition, officials are placing a heavy emphasis on vaccination: unvaccinated athletes must quarantine for twenty-one days upon arrival, save for a ‘justified medical exception’ to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There are no requirements for the type of Covid vaccine, as long as it is approved by either the World Health Organization or national authorities (1).


The Beijing committee responsible for organizing the Olympics announced the release of a full, comprehensive list of pandemic-related countermeasures to be released near the end of October in guides called “playbooks”. However, other specifications, such as rules pertaining to domestic spectators and tickets, are still pending decisions (1).


The decision, made on September 29, 2021, came just weeks after two major winter sporting events to be held in China were cancelled, which consequently sparked concerns over the status of the Olympics. The Cup of China, originally scheduled to take place in early November as the third of six qualifying competitions for the figure skating Grand Prix Series, was cancelled on August 16 primarily due to Covid-related travel restrictions (3). A few weeks later, on September 13, the Four Continents International Figure Skating Championships scheduled for January 17-22 was also cancelled. The press release following the cancellations cited the lack of inbound flights to Chinese cities, quarantine requirements, safety concerns, and other “logistical challenges” (4) The two competitions were moved to new venues in Turin, Italy and Tallinn, Estonia respectively (5, 6).


Although the pandemic circumstances pose new challenges for the Olympic experience, the Beijing 2022 motto, “together for a shared future,” is now more relevant than ever.