Beijing, Aug 8:
The focus immediately shifts to Beijing as the curtain falls on the Tokyo Olympics, with a growing coronavirus outbreak in China and boycott calls looming large just six months from the start of the Winter Games.
The Beijing 2022 Olympics are scheduled to take place from February 4 to 20, when the Chinese capital will become the first city to host a Winter and Summer Games.
New venues have been constructed and some from Beijing 2008, including the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium, are being spruced up as China attempts to show the world its best face.
The 2022 Games will be spread over three main zones – Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, which is about 180 kilometres (110 miles) northwest of the capital. A high-speed train will connect the three hubs.
All competition venues were completed several months ago and the Chinese government has been keen to assert that preparations have successfully ploughed on despite the coronavirus pandemic.
But just as Beijing 2022 swings into view, China is now facing its largest virus outbreak in months, even if infection numbers are still low compared with many other countries.
Another headache for the Beijing Olympics and China’s ruling Communist Party is sustained calls from activists, the Uyghur diaspora and some Western politicians for a boycott over the country’s rights record, especially the fate of Muslim minorities.
China, where Covid-19 emerged towards the end of 2019, already had some of the world’s strictest containment measures and is ramping them up further in the capital.
People flying into China from abroad must quarantine for between two and three weeks in a hotel, and it is unclear if the thousands of athletes, team officials, media and others coming to the Games will have to do likewise.
Bo Li, assistant professor of sports management at Miami University in Ohio, said Beijing 2022 organisers should take their cue from Tokyo in handling the virus threat.
There were concerns there would be mass infections among participants in Japan but while there have been cases, the worst fears have not materialised.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and local organisers insisted on testing everyone involved before and regularly during the Games, and keeping athletes away from the public.
Spectators have also been barred from most events at Tokyo 2020 – it is unclear whether Beijing 2022 will follow suit. “Overall the strategy that has been used by Tokyo has been pretty successful and I think Beijing will duplicate something very similar,” said Bo Li, adding that he was “curious” about what China would do with its current strict quarantine procedures.