Disqualified Japanese ski jumper Sara Takanashi apologizes for suit violation

An Olympic worker carries suitcases on a media transport bus at Beijing Airport on February 2, ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Many athletes from Western countries have been stunned by the strict Covid-19 restrictions they have faced upon arriving in Beijing for the Winter Olympics in recent weeks. Some have been placed in solitary confinement for weeks after testing positive, while others have complained about the bland food served in quarantine.

These measures constituted a violation of human rights, said a Finnish coach. But for 1.4 billion people across China, conditions inside the Olympic bubble present a kind of microcosm of the country during the pandemic.

China is one of the few places still adhering to a strict zero Covid approach, whereby instant lockdowns, mass testing, contact tracing and strict border restrictions are rolled out in a bid to eliminate any trace of the disease.

New variants and increasingly frequent outbreaks have raised questions about the sustainability of this strategy. But with thousands of athletes and support staff coming in from all over the world – many countries are still seeing high cases after deciding to “live with Covid” – Beijing is taking no chances.

The contrast could not be more striking: Athletes from places like the United States, where the effectiveness of face masks is still debated, now face daily Covid testing inside the “closed loop” that separates Olympic participants from the rest of the world. capital city.

Some measures are only an inconvenience. For example, athletes must wear plastic gloves when filling their plates in the cafeteria. When a CNN reporter ordered a steak at a hotel, she was told it could only be served well done – cooked so dry it looked like jerky – as a Covid precaution.

But other measures cost more: More than 160 athletes or team officials have tested positive for Covid and have been placed in isolation, with several forced to miss their competitions – a devastating blow for those who have spent years training for this moment. They are not allowed to return to the bubble until all symptoms resolve and they return two consecutive negative test results.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in China Newslettera tri-weekly update exploring what you need to know about the country’s rise and its impact on the world. Register here.


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