China announced Monday that members of the Chinese public no longer will be able to buy tickets to the Beijing Winter Olympics as organizers struggle to contain the latest coronavirus outbreak, with the games just three weeks away.
Instead, the Beijing Winter Olympics organizing committee said groups of spectators from mainland China who “meet the requirements of COVID-19 countermeasures” will be invited to watch the games in person.
“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 program that will invite groups of spectators to be present on site during the Games,” the organizing committee said in a statement.
Foreign visitors already had been barred from attending the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
“The organizers 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,” the committee said.
The announcement came with COVID-19 cases surging worldwide, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, ahead of the Feb. 4-20 winter games.
The International Olympic Committee said the decision to allow only invited groups of fans would help “ensure the safety of all participants and spectators.”
“This announcement follows the release of pandemic prevention and control policy principles for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on 29 September 2021,” the IOC said. “One of the principles was that no tickets would be sold to spectators from outside China’s mainland, and that tickets would be sold exclusively to spectators residing in China’s mainland who meet the requirements of COVID-19 countermeasures.”
The Paralympic Winter Games are scheduled for March 4-13.
About 20 million people in China are under lockdown as authorities seek to counter COVID-19 outbreaks with the games fast approaching. Nearly 3,000 athletes from around the world are expected to compete in 109 events.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is sending about 200 athletes, but no U.S. dignitaries will attend as part of the Biden administration’s diplomatic boycott over Beijing’s human-rights abuses.
• This story is based in part on wire service reports.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.