Non-contact measures are implemented at the medal ceremony during last week's speed skating test competition. The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will ensure that the Games are safe as well as athlete-centered. (PHOTO/XINHUA)
With the 100-day countdown to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics around the corner, organizers are in close discussions with relevant parties and stakeholders about COVID-19 countermeasures to ensure that the Games remain athlete-centered.
Beijing promised to deliver an "athlete-centered, sustainable and economical" Winter Games during the bidding process, and has been upholding these principles throughout the ongoing preparations.
Huang Chun, deputy director general of the Pandemic Prevention and Control Office for the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee (BOCOG), said that with the world still grappling with COVID-19 challenges, Beijing 2022, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have agreed that all athletes should be fully vaccinated prior to their departure for China unless they are medically exempt.
"The athletes who are fully vaccinated, as well as the athletes who are eligible for medical exemption, will directly enter a closed-loop management system, which will be put in place for all Games participants from overseas to ensure that there is no contact with the general public," said Huang.
Despite the social-distancing protocol, organizers are leaving no stone unturned to create a pleasant atmosphere for athletes.
During last week's China Open speed skating competition, the first international test event for Beijing 2022, South Korean skater Kim Jun-ho was surprised to hear a birthday song played for him after finishing a men's 1,000m race at the National Speed Skating Oval.
"This is the first time I have celebrated my birthday during a competition. I will never forget this moment," said Kim, who bagged one gold and one silver at the meet.
At the designated hotel in the Yanqing competition zone, a "temporary kindergarten" was established to take care of two toddlers whose parents are athletes. The two kids received gifts from the hotel－baby chairs, mascots and toys－when they arrived, and were supervised by hotel staff while their parents trained at the National Sliding Center.
The return of National Hockey League players to the Olympics adds extra allure to an already highly anticipated event, and in turn places extra demands on the operational team at the National Indoor Stadium.
"Although under a closed-loop management system, we will not lower our standards for athlete-related services. On the contrary, extra care and attention are needed in such a situation," said Lei Ming, deputy director of the operation team.
Liaison staff have been recruited from graduate schools of China's top universities to ensure smooth communications between the hockey teams, Beijing 2022 organizers and technical officials.
Designated personnel will also be in place to conduct a gear and equipment-cleaning service inside the venue to minimize physical contact.
The Winter Olympic Village has been built to the globally recognized WELL Building Standard, paying extra attention to accessibility. Paralympic athletes can use a smartphone app to help them navigate the village, and control lights, air conditioners and curtains in their rooms.
At the National Cross-Country Center, athletes' needs were taken into consideration right from the design stage, according to Cui Yingbo, deputy director of the venue.
The dedicated parking lot, warm-up and training trails, waxing room, changing rooms and restrooms are located close to the competition area on a carefully designed route to save athletes' time and energy when moving around.
A trail connects the wax room to the training area, so that athletes can ski between the two locations.
"We are ready to welcome the best athletes from around the world for a joyful gathering in Beijing, and we will ignite the world again with Olympic passion," vowed Yang Yang, China's first Winter Olympic gold medalist and chair of the Athletes' Commission for Beijing 2022.