Olympic chiefs urge Beijing participants to be 'extra vigilant'

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Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics in February (AFP/Jade GAO)
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Olympic chiefs on Wednesday urged all participants at next month's Winter Games in Beijing to be "extra vigilant" as Covid-19 infections hit unprecedented case levels in several countries.

At a closed-door meeting with national Olympic committees, Beijing 2022 organisers and international federations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) dismissed any idea of a postponement of the February 4-20 Games because of coronavirus.

Everything is on track to stage a safe Olympic Winter Games for all participants and the Chinese people, reported Juan Antonio Samaranch, chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022.

But in the face of a surge of the Omicron strain of Covid-19, notably across Europe and in the United States, IOC president Thomas Bach said: "We must do everything to ensure that the Olympic dreams of athletes are not taken away just days before departure."

Bach added that so-called "playbooks", a type of manual on Covid rules and regulations for pre-departure and in place in Beijing, must become "not just a rule book, but a way of life in the lead-up to Beijing 2022".

"Now is a critical time for all Games participants who will travel to Beijing to be extra vigilant," the IOC said in a statement after the meeting that comes just 30 days ahead of the Games' opening ceremony in the Chinese capital.

"They should already follow the measures laid out in the Beijing 2022 playbooks, before their departure to Beijing."

Britain, the United States, France and Australia have all announced record case numbers in recent days, while China has imposed lockdowns in two cities and rolled out mass testing for millions as it doubles down on its "zero Covid" policy ahead of Beijing 2022.

As at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, postponed by a year to 2021, the IOC will bid to reach a balance between health and safety and sporting fairness.

Only the unvaccinated will have to undergo a quarantine of 21 days on arrival, while athletes and Games participants who test positive for Covid-19 and are asymptomatic will be discharged from quarantine once they have two consecutive negative PCR test results within at least 24 hours between the two samples and no other Covid symptoms.

They will then be released into the close-contact management system, the IOC said, which means testing twice a day, but allowed as a close contact to carry on their essential activities related to the Games without being isolated.

"For athletes, that means they would be able to continue training and competing," the IOC said.

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