Organizers of next month’s Beijing Olympics said Monday that only select “groups of spectators” will be invited to watch the Winter Games in person, a move that further restricts attendance at the event.
“Given the current grave and complicated situation of the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, it was decided that tickets should not be sold anymore but be part of an adapted programme that will invite groups of spectators to be present on site during the Games,” according to a press release today on the official Beijing Organising Committee site.
“Organisers expect that these spectators will strictly abide by the Covid-19 countermeasures before, during and after each event as pre-conditions for the safe and sound delivery of the Games.”
No spectators were allowed into any venues in Tokyo during the Olympic Games there last summer because of concerns over the global pandemic. The lack of energy in the stadiums and on NBCs broadcasts was noticeable. Depending on how many spectators are allowed in an how far apart they are required to sit, the Beijing Games could look quite sterile on TV, negating of China’s greatest assets as a host country — its massive population, ready to cheer the competitors.
Beijing had already restricted ticket sales for the Games to exclude any spectators outside mainland China but had never made tickets available to purchase. It’s unclear who would be eligible to be invited under the new policy, which comes as the country is working to control outbreaks of Covid. Despite those efforts, Beijing reported its first case of Omicron last week. Officials quickly placed the neighborhood where it was found under lockdown. That was not the only sign of increasing restrictions in the city of 20-plus million.
Per the New York Times, “Travel to the capital from virus-affected areas around the country has been severely restricted. Dozens of international and domestic flights into the city have been suspended. And Beijing residents have been urged to stay put, even for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, typically the busiest travel week of the year.”
The number of new cases reported in the country of 1.4 billion was just 240 on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University cited by the Times.
The U.S. is already not sending diplomats to the China-set games, joining other countries in a boycott over the nation’s human rights policies. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing recently called China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and other human rights abuses.”
The Beijing Games are set for February 4-20 and will air in the U.S. on NBC and its sister networks including NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service.
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