The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China will begin on Feb. 4. It will be the second Olympic Games held during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first was the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which was delayed until July 2021 because of rising cases.
Organizers did not require athletes to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to compete in the Tokyo Summer Games. Will the policy be the same in Beijing?
Do athletes have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics?
No, athletes do not have to be vaccinated to compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics; however, unvaccinated athletes will need to quarantine in a dedicated facility for 21 days before they can compete.
WHAT WE FOUND
In September 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced its COVID protocols for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, including the event’s vaccination policy.
The Beijing Olympics will keep its athletes in a “closed-loop system” in which Olympic participants use Olympic transport to move between dedicated Olympic venues and accommodations during the entirety of their stays in China. This closed-loop is designed so Olympic participants have zero interaction with the general public in China.
“All athletes and Games participants who are fully vaccinated will enter the closed-loop management system upon arrival,” the IOC said. “Games participants who are not fully vaccinated will have to serve a 21-day quarantine upon arrival in Beijing.”
The IOC elaborated on this “closed-loop” system and vaccination policy in December 2021 with its playbook for athletes and team officials.
In order to enter this system and therefore participate in the Beijing Games, a traveler must either be fully vaccinated 14 days prior to departure or quarantine for 21 days upon arrival in China. Exceptions to this for medical reasons will be handled on a case-by-case basis, the IOC said.
The IOC and Beijing Organizing Committee consider a participant fully vaccinated based on the requirements of the country or region the person resides, or the requirements of the national health authority where their vaccine was administered.
These rules are already in practice for participants and officials already in Beijing to prepare for the Olympics, the Beijing Organizing Committee announced.
Officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed confidence in the Beijing Olympics’ COVID countermeasures in a Jan. 6 press conference.
“We will continue to monitor the situation but certainly at this stage, given the arrangements that have been put in place for the athletes and by the organizers we don't perceive that there's any particular extra risk in hosting or running the Games,” said the WHO’s Dr. Mike Ryan. “But obviously we will keep all of the measures that are being put in place under constant review.”
While the IOC and Beijing Organizing Committee aren’t requiring participants be vaccinated to compete in the Winter Olympics, Team USA is. Since Nov. 1, Team USA has required all American Olympic athletes and employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or seek a medical or religious exemption in order to access team facilities or events.
As for spectators, the IOC announced on Jan. 17 that the Beijing Games was changing its policy for them to be more stringent than it had been before. Previously, only Chinese people were allowed to purchase tickets, but sales stopped on Jan. 17. Instead, organizers for the Beijing Games said they “will invite groups of spectators to be present on site during the Games.”