BEIJING (AP) — Chinese organizers have confirmed participants in next year’s Winter Olympics will be strictly isolated from the general population and could face expulsion for violating COVID-19 restrictions.

Vice mayor and Beijing 2022 organizing committee official Zhang Jiandong told reporters Wednesday that those taking part in the games beginning Feb. 4 must remain in a “closed loop” for training, competing, transport, dining and accommodation.

Beijing is now formally establishing an Olympic bubble. This follows a strict policy of zero tolerance for the pandemic. The coronavirus will be checked on athletes as well as other participants before and during the Games. It will not allow family, sponsors or spectators from abroad to join the Games.

“All participants of the Games and our Chinese staff and volunteers will implement the same policy,” Zhang said. “They will be strictly separated from the external society.

“Those who do not comply with the epidemic prevention regulations may face severe consequences such as warning, temporary or permanent cancellation of registration, temporary or permanent disqualification or expulsion from the competition, and other punishment.”

Participants must be fully immunized at least 14 days before they depart for China. China has strict regulations regarding mask wearing, contact tracing and quarantines that have been successful in eliminating local COVID-19 transmission. But, imported cases of the disease continue to surface in daily reports.

“Indeed, epidemic prevention and control is the biggest challenge for us to host the Winter Olympic Games,” Zhang told a news conference.

We are now 100 days away from the Beijing Games, Wednesday was their milestone. Under strict conditions, organizers have hosted test events that featured international athletes at Olympic venues.

Japan placed restrictions on Japan and created an Olympic bubble for the Tokyo Summer Games, July 23-Aug. 8, which were delayed by twelve months as a result of the pandemic.


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