Face Off: Should the Beijing Winter Olympics go ahead amid coronavirus concerns?

  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a showdown that does not necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint
  • This week, they discuss whether the Olympic Games should proceed following a worldwide surge in Omicron cases
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With the Omicron variant of coronavirus surging, should the Beijing Winter Olympics go ahead as planned? Photo: Kyodo

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For: Anson Leung, 17, HKFYG Lee Shau Kee College

The Beijing Winter Olympics, which begins on Friday, will be the best showcase of China’s zero-Covid strategy.

It is one of the few countries in the world that hopes to eliminate the virus, despite the harsh measures needed and the cost imposed on the economy and people’s lives.

A gathering of some 2,900 athletes from around the world might not be the ideal situation during a pandemic. But the organisers appear determined to deliver the “green, safe and simple” Games that President Xi Jinping called for recently.

Beijing seals off “Olympic bubble” ahead of Games

Also, the Beijing Winter Olympics is not the first large-scale sporting extravaganza to be held as Covid-19 rages across the globe. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, postponed for a year due to the pandemic, was held under similar conditions including tight quarantine rules to prevent the spread of the virus.

For the central government, this is a proud moment. Beijing’s zero-tolerance approach relies on mass testing, stringent border controls, contact tracing, and extensive quarantines and lockdowns to tame sudden outbreaks.

The Games organisers have put in place a “closed-loop” bubble; those who are not fully vaccinated will have to undergo 21 days of quarantine to enter the system, while foreign spectators have been banned from the Games.

An aerial view of the illuminated Olympic Rings made out of rotating ice carousels. They were made in support of the Finnish Olympic team at the Pajulahti Olympic and Paralympic training centre ahead of the upcoming Games in Beijing. Photo: AFP

The event can also bring the citizens together and make them love their country more. This is also a good time for Hongkongers to set aside their differences and cheer the mainland athletes.

Athletes who have been practising for years must be given the chance to showcase their skills. How would they feel if the Winter Olympics is cancelled?

The Tokyo Summer Olympics proved that with stringent tests and precautionary measures, you can still hold an international sports event. This is China’s chance to show that it can not only defeat the coronavirus, but also stay united in the face of adversity.

US, Canada and Britain announce diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games

Against: Serene Chan, 16, Fukien Secondary School

It is an honour for a city to be able to hold the Summer or Winter Olympics. This year, it’s Beijing’s turn to host the Winter Olympics.

However, given the coronavirus outbreaks in multiple provinces on the mainland, many people believe that China should suspend the Games until the conditions improve. I agree.

We all know that Covid-19 originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which has resulted in a lot of prejudice against Chinese people, as well as Asians, around the world.

Staff members in protective suits help residents get tested for coronavirus outside a shopping centre in Beijing, the host city of the upcoming Winter Olympics. Photo: Reuters

Although China is no longer the primary focus of the pandemic, it would not help if the Winter Games is being held in the country where the coronavirus was first reported, some people say. It would be harmful if “racists” spread negative sentiments about our motherland, they add.

Although many countries have started to live with the virus, it still poses a serious threat to people.

For example, the Omicron variant is much more contagious than Delta and it is causing a surge in hospitalisations and deaths among the unvaccinated, especially in the United States.

How much does it cost to host the Olympics?

Therefore, how can we be sure that the Winter Olympics won’t lead to a fresh wave of Covid-19 on the mainland?

A mainland official has admitted that the Beijing Winter Olympics could bring Covid-19 cases to the country because a large number of foreigners will gather, causing a very high risk of transmission.

Also, overseas spectators are not allowed at the Games. This defeats the purpose of the event which is to let foreigners see the country and enjoy its tourist sites and other facilities while mingling with the locals.

The issues dogging the Beijing Olympics

China is already facing controversy, with human rights activists criticising its actions against the minority Uygur community in Xinjiang.

The US, Canada, Britain, and Australia have already announced diplomatic boycotts of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

One wrong step and the attacks against Beijing would intensify.

In the circumstances, it would be best for China to not stage the Winter Olympics.

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