Beijing seals off Olympic ‘bubble’ ahead of the Winter Games

  • China’s zero-Covid strategy means thousands of Games-related staff will be stuck inside a ‘closed loop’ until after the Olympics and Paralympics
  • Global media and 3,000 athletes will begin arriving within the next few weeks
Agence France-Presse |

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Beijing has sealed off its Olympic “bubble” before the Winter Games. Volunteers will not be allowed to leave the area until after the Games are over. Photo: AFP

Beijing sealed up its Winter Olympic “bubble” on Tuesday, preparing the Games venues, transport and staff for the world’s strictest mass sporting event since the global pandemic.

China has pursued a zero-tolerance strategy on Covid-19 and is taking the same approach to limit the pandemic’s potential impact during the February 4-20 Winter Olympics and subsequent Paralympics.

Starting Tuesday, thousands of Games-related staff, volunteers, cleaners, cooks and coach drivers will be cocooned for weeks in the so-called “closed loop” with no direct physical access to the outside world.

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This contrasts with the Covid-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics, which allowed some movement in and out for volunteers and other personnel.

The global media and roughly 3,000 athletes are expected to start arriving in the Chinese capital in the weeks ahead and will remain in the bubble from the moment they land until they leave the country.

Anyone entering the bubble must be fully vaccinated or face a 21-day quarantine when they touch down, and everyone inside will be tested daily and must wear face masks at all times.

Workers use zip ties to lock up a fence to help create a “bubble” surrounding the Beijing Olympic Park. Photo: AFP

Zhao Weidong, head of the Olympic organising committee’s media department, said Beijing was “fully prepared”.

“Hotels, transport, accommodation, as well as our science and technology-led Winter Olympics projects are all ready,” Zhao said.

Fans will not be part of the “closed loop,” and organisers will have to ensure that they do not mingle with athletes and others inside the bubble.

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People who live in China must also quarantine upon leaving the bubble to return home.

The system includes dedicated transport between venues, with even “closed-loop” high-speed rail systems operating in parallel to those open to the public.

It is set to operate well into late March and possibly early April.

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