IOC says Winter Olympics still on schedule, as Switzerland asks for delay due to COVID

Despite the worldwide surge of COVID-19, the Beijing Winter Olympics are still expected to continue as planned.

The IOC confirmed on 5 January 2022 that the Winter Games would not be delayed. The confirmation comes after the Swiss Olympic Committee asked it to be postponed amid rising COVID-19 infections. However, the committee now feels confident in the IOC’s plans to prevent transmission as little as possible.

“The issue of postponement is no longer relevant to all of us,” Swiss team leader Ralf Stockley said in a statement translated into English. Now we can focus on our task: to create the best possible conditions for the Swiss delegation during the four weeks between us and the opening ceremony.”

Stockley had earlier raised concerns about the Winter Games as Switzerland and the rest of the world grapple with the Omicron coronavirus strain. He told French-language broadcaster RTS that the “possibility of postponement” should be considered. From his recent comments, it seems that he is backing down on this statement.

“This is a positive sign,” he continued in the statement. “Without this flexibility, given the high number of contaminations, we would have had to recognize that many athletes, who no longer present any risk of infection, may be deprived of their dreams of participating in the Olympic Games. would have gone.”

Olympic rings are seen inside one of the athlete villages for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, before the arena was closed on January 3, 2022 in Chongli County, Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, northern China. The IOC confirmed that the Olympic Games will still begin on February 4 amid the current COVID-19 surge.
Photo by Kevin Fryer/Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee is hoping to avoid delays for the second time in a row. The Tokyo Games, originally scheduled for 2020, were postponed by a year. The decision was made four months before the scheduled opening ceremony.

After listening to the IOC on Wednesday, the Swiss Olympic team said it was happy to have a certainty on the subject.

Another Swiss concern that was downplayed on Wednesday was related to wait times after an athlete has recovered from a COVID-19 infection before being allowed to enter China. The IOC and Chinese organizers announced that a panel of international experts would evaluate individual cases and handle the issue “in a more flexible manner”, the Swiss team said.

Nevertheless, the team noted “very demanding” conditions to compete, qualify and prepare, with the opening ceremony on 4 February only 30 days away.

Stockley acknowledged Wednesday that there will “probably be a disappointment” for athletes who are unable to compete in the end.

Beijing’s organizers and the IOC are creating a health security bubble for the Olympics, with tighter testing and limits on travel and movement than at last year’s Tokyo Games.

The rules include a 21-day quarantine for athletes, officials and workers not fully vaccinated, daily testing even for those who are vaccinated, and keeping local staff within the bubble.

International fans are again being turned away, although tickets to attend events in stadiums will be sold to people living in China.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

ralph stocklick
Ralph Stockley of Switzerland competes in the men’s bronze medal game between Sweden and Switzerland on day 16 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at the Vancouver Olympic Center on February 27, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. While now retired from curling, Stockley now serves on the Swiss Olympic Committee, where he previously expressed concerns about holding the Winter Olympic Games in February due to COVID-19.
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images