Foreign Spectators Won't Be Allowed at 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, IOC Says

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 29, 2021

A Chinese flag flutters in front of the IOC headquarters during a protest by activists of the International Tibet Network against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Februay 3, 2021 in Lausanne. - A coalition of campaign groups issued an open letter calling on world leaders to boycott the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics over China's rights record. The Games are scheduled to begin on February 4 next year, just six months after the delayed summer Tokyo Olympics, but preparations have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

The IOC and China will not allow foreign spectators to attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Tom Schad of USA Today. That means no friends or families of participating athletes.

Chinese residents will be allowed to attend the Games, though protocols will be put in place for those fans. That differs from this summer's Tokyo Games, which were largely held without spectators.

"This will facilitate the growth of winter sports in China by giving those spectators a first-hand Olympic and Paralympic experience of elite winter sports, as well as bringing a favourable atmosphere to the venues," the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee said in a statement. "However, all parties feel for the athletes and the spectators from around the world, knowing that the restriction on spectators from outside mainland China had to be put in place in order to ensure the safe holding of the Games this winter."

The Games will also have a bubble-type environment for the athletes, or a "closed-loop management system," as the organizing entities have described it. 

The United States, meanwhile, will require all athletes and staff members who travel to the Games to be fully vaccinated.

"This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and service to athletes," United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter, per CNN.

American athletes will be allowed to apply for medical or religious exemptions to the mandate.

That decision marks a departure from the USOPC's stance for the Tokyo Games, wherein U.S. athletes were not required to be vaccinated.

The Beijing Games are set to begin Feb. 4.