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Olympic Games.  After Tokyo, how will Beijing meet the Covid-19 challenge?

Olympic Games. After Tokyo, how will Beijing meet the Covid-19 challenge?

Beijing, the Chinese capital, which already hosts the 2008 Olympics, will become the first city to host the Winter and Summer Olympics. The events will take place in three different areas: the city center will host indoor sports (skating, short track, ice hockey, curling), the Big Air and the Opening Ceremony.

Alpine skiing, bobsleighing and sledding will be played on the mountainous outskirts of the capital. Finally, the Zhangjiakou site in neighboring Hebei province will host the other events (cross-country skiing, ski jumping, biathlon, snowboarding, freestyle skiing).

The construction of all the competition venues has been completed over several months, but it remains a grain of sand in this well-oiled organization: the Covid. How to deal with the headache of the arrival of thousands of athletes, coaches and journalists, potentially vectors of the virus? The organizing committee is silent for the moment. “Tokyo’s strategy has been quite effective and Beijing should implement something similar,” predicts Bo Li, professor of sports management at the University of Miami (United States).

Quarantine for athletes?

In Tokyo, the athletes were housed in the Olympic Village and had to pass a daily Covid test.

“There really is no other option than this bubble,” abounds Mark Dreyer, a Beijing-based sports analyst and founder of the China Sports Insider site. “The difference is that China is concerned about the lower risk of transmission of the virus from athletes to the population. He manages with a level of severity that Japan did not have. Containment, mass screening, mobile applications to monitor movements: the objective of the authorities since the appearance of the coronavirus in the country at the end of 2019 is ‘zero contagion’.

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“We can expect a draconian approach and zero tolerance from Chinese organizers,” predicts Simon Chadwick, a professor specializing in sports in Asia at the EM Lyon business school. According to him, discussions between an intractable Beijing on anti-Covid measures and an International Olympic Committee (IOC) concerned about the comfort of athletes will be “much more difficult” than for Tokyo.

One question remains: what about the mandatory two or even three week hotel quarantine that China imposes on people coming from abroad? Will it also be imposed on the Olympic delegations? “It is not realistic. Who would pay? And the preparation of athletes would be greatly affected. This is unacceptable to most of them, ”warns Bo Li.

Another question: will we see empty stands like in Tokyo? “It is unlikely that foreign spectators will be allowed. But what about local viewers? Mark Dreyer asks. “During the Games, China will want to show its new power and strength. But she will also want to be loved by the rest of the world, ”says Simon Chadwick. “Therefore, you will have to be very careful with your anti-Covid measures so as not to offend the image of seduction that you want to return. “

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With the test events canceled last year due to the pandemic, no team has been able to discover the next venues for the Winter Olympics. “There is a certain form of fairness,” says Fabien Saguez, French national coach.

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“We have often seen one or more nations have the advantage of the field, it is not possible there, it puts everyone on the same footing. The key word is that you have to be open to everything and adaptable. We know that we can find very windy and very cold conditions. We will have to adapt. “