Olympic Villages welcome first batch of athletes, personnel
World remains confident in Beijing’s anti-epidemic system
Published: Jan 23, 2022 11:39 PM Updated: Jan 23, 2022 11:50 PM
Photo: Winter Olympic Village in Zhangjiakou.

Photo: Winter Olympic Village in Zhangjiakou.

China launches a special bullet train service to take athletes to Winter Olympics venues in Qinghe, Beijing on January 21, 2022. The Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed train is expected to service the Games until March 16, or for 55 days. Photo: VCG

China launches a special bullet train service to take athletes to Winter Olympics venues in Qinghe, Beijing on January 21, 2022. The Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed train is expected to service the Games until March 16, or for 55 days. Photo: VCG

On Sunday, the Olympic Villages of Beijing Winter Olympic Games welcomed the first batch of athletes and officials, marking that the Beijing Winter Olympics is entering its final 11-day sprint.

Olympic Village staff and volunteers told the Global Times that members of delegations from more than 20 countries have already moved into the Olympic Villages to prepare for the later arrival of all athletes. 

Although Beijing has already detected dozens of positive cases among Olympic-related personnel having arrived in China, the athletes, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international community remain confident in Beijing's epidemic prevention system for the Winter Olympics. 

None of the positive cases was found among athletes or delegation officials, the Organizing Committee said.

Olympic Villages pre-open

On Sunday, the three Olympic Villages in Beijing, its Yanqing district and neighboring Zhangjiakou in North China's Hebei Province welcomed the first batch of "villagers" from more than 20 delegations including Team China, Team US, Team UK and Team Australia. 

In the first hour, seven members of the Australian delegation and eight members of the UK delegation successfully registered at Zhangjiakou Village, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday. Another 36 are expected to check in to Zhangjiakou Village on Sunday, according to CCTV. 

Qu Songming, manager of the plaza area of the Beijing Village, told the Global Times on Sunday that some athletes had already moved into the Beijing Winter Olympic Village on Sunday.

Qu said that a few athletes from Poland and the Czech Republic had already experienced the plaza area, where the athletes can do shopping and other recreational activities, and expressed their satisfaction. 

As of Sunday afternoon, no athletes have visited the competition venues, Qu said.

A volunteer surnamed Xiao told the Global Times on Sunday that a number of athletes from the US, UK, Australia and other countries have checked into Zhangjiakou Village, and the volunteers are staying about one kilometer away. 

Some members of the Chinese mainland's delegation have also entered the Winter Olympic Villages.

According to the Organizing Committee, Sunday to Wednesday is the pre-opening phase of the Olympic Villages, where the main residents are the advance staff providing logistics and services. 

After moving in, these staff will hold a registration meeting with the Village operation team to confirm the eligibility of the delegation athletes, the number of delegation registrations, access rights, and to prepare for the athletes and other delegation members to enter the three competition zones. 

This procedure is designed to reduce the formalities and procedures for athletes from different countries to move into the Olympic Villages by enabling them to move directly into the Olympic Villages and prepare for competition after the official opening of the Villages on January 27. 

Confidence in closed-loop

Epidemic prevention and control will be the top priority of the Winter Olympic Village management and services, Shen Qianfan, director of the Beijing Winter Olympic Village operation team, told media.

"After the pre-opening of the villages on Sunday, our team staff will keep up health monitoring and self-protection, and dynamically adjust the epidemic prevention system in key areas such as athletes' apartments and comprehensive clinics to minimize the COVID-19 risk," Shen said.

As of Saturday midnight, a total of 39 positive test results were found among 2,586 Olympics-related personnel arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport since Beijing started official use of the closed-loop system on January 4, according to the Games Organizing Committee. 

Another 33 positive results were found among a total of 336,246 tests within the closed loop in the same period. 

None of the positive cases was found among athletes or delegation officials. The Organizing Committee stressed in its announcement that the Olympic closed-loop is completely isolated from the general public. 

Although Beijing has recently experienced several small outbreaks in the capital, with 43 domestically transmitted cases reported in the past week, the Organizing Committee and the IOC remain confident in the epidemic prevention procedures for the Beijing Winter Olympics. 

According to the Xinhua News Agency, preparations for the Olympics are basically set and epidemic prevention and control measures have been tested by multiple test events, which is proved to be able to effectively reduce the risk of epidemic.

IOC President Thomas Bach pointed out last week that under the enormous pressure of the changing pandemic situation, the Beijing Winter Olympic Organizing Committee has taken strong and effective measures. 

The closed-loop management is safe and smooth, and the services and guarantees are considerate and attentive, which is highly recognized by the international community, he said. 

"We are confident that we will run the Games safely and smoothly as scheduled, and will take the lead in implementing epidemic prevention measures and guide and urge all parties to come to China to strictly comply with the anti-epidemic provisions," Bach said.

The closed-loop management system, a core part of the epidemic prevention management for the Beijing Winter Olympics, has also been received well by the participating athletes.

"I think it's good to have a stricter anti-epidemic policy for the Winter Olympics. The whole world is in a special state right now and we need to accept that," Swiss Snowboarder Jan Scherrer told Chinese media. "I'm really looking forward to the Winter Olympics now."

"Once we get to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, I believe that's the safest place to be," said Anna Gasser, Austrian Snowboarder Olympic Gold Medalist, in an interview with Chinese media. 

According to the IOC, the vaccination rate for personnel involved in the Beijing Winter Olympic Athletes' Villages is close to 100 percent.

The Global Times also learned that all Chinese Olympic supporting personnel are fully vaccinated and boosted. 

Michael Ryan, head of the World Health Organization's health emergency program, also said he is confident about the measures implemented by the Beijing Winter Olympic organizers, and the Games are not expected to increase the risk of transmission.

Final preparation in gear

Starting Monday, the 12 competition venues, 28 non-competition venues and three training venues will enter the competition phase. 

Countries have basically determined the size and members of their participating delegations. Among them, the US Winter Olympic delegation includes 222 athletes, aged between 16 to 40 years old.

Russia will send 217 athletes to participate in all competition events, and the entire Winter Olympic delegation will total 509 people.

Japan is expected to send at least 122 athletes to the Beijing Winter Olympics.

China's delegation to the Winter Olympics is expected to be officially announced next week, and is almost certain to be China's largest Winter Olympic delegation ever.

On Saturday night, the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games was held at the National Stadium in Beijing. 

In contrast to the four-hour-long ceremony and 15,000 performers participating in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony, the opening ceremony for the 2022 Games will rely on high technology instead of using the previous "huge-crowd" strategy and will last less than 100 minutes and feature about 3,000 performers, according to the director Zhang Yimou.

The opening ceremony for the Beijing Winter Olympics will be held on February 4.