The Beijing Olympics organizing committee and the Chinese government have imposed draconic measures to avoid anyone showing up in China with Covid-19. Likewise, the daily anti-Covid policies in place on location make the Tokyo Olympics seem laxed.
Accordingly, teams and athletes traveling to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing are taking heavy precautions to avoid infection with the highly contagious Omicron variant of the corona virus. The consequences of catching the bug prior to the Games, even if asymptomatic, could mean missing the Olympics entirely.
The French biathlon team are now doing all they can to minimize their risk of infection by taking radical health measures, despite everyone now being fully vaccinated.
Since arriving in Oberhof (Germany), the team has returned to their Covid-rules from last winter: They wear FFP2 masks at all times, keep separate tables during meals and pairs of rooms do all the activities together.
The French biathlon team is just one example. Norway’s Heidi Weng is hanging out at her alone at her cabin until she leaves for the Norwegian national team’s pre-Olympic altitude camp.
Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden is staying home alone until it’s time for him to travel. Not even his girlfriend is allowed to visit. Only his two cats will keep Halfvarsson company for the next weeks.
Fearing the Chinese more than the virus
“The pressure comes mainly from the Chinese authorities, who announced that in the event of a positive test in January, the protocol would be very strict to travel there at the end of the month,” says Antonin Guigonnat of the French biathlon team to Nordic Mag.
“These are things that we do as a team to have the least possible chance of being positive. But it feels like having a sword of Damocles hanging over us at all times,” Guigonnat says.
And the fear is real: athletes testing positive for the virus during the 30 days prior to the Olympics could miss the games entirely. This could be the case for those infected in Oberhof, Germany, this week.
The anti-Covid restrictions in place for the 2022 Olympics are indeed strict.
Besides the required vaccines and negative tests on arrival in China, there will be daily PCR testing for everyone, even within the bubble. Anyone arriving without documentation of vaccination and/or negative test will be quarantined for 21 days.
There will be no interaction with other teams, or anyone outside the team bubble, at the venues. And certainly no loafing around at the stadium or outside the Olympic compounds.
Furthermore, anyone testing positive for Covid-19 during the Olympics, will need to stay in China until they test negative.
“How long a person will test positive varies from person to person. For some, the virus will stay in their bodies for a few days, but others can test positive for up to three months,” says Aasne Fenne Hoksrud, head of medical affairs at the Norwegian Olympic Development Center (Olympiatoppen).
To further reduce the risk of infection, only chartered planes are allowed for those attending the Games. Special buses will transport teams and cohorts to their accommodations, and the same buses will transport the same cohorts throughout their time in China.