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Beijing Olympics will allow some in-person fans, but only from mainland China

Beijing organizers will seek to create what they're calling a “closed-loop management system” for the Winter Olympics. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)
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Beijing Olympics organizers are planning to allow spectators to attend at least some events at the 2022 Winter Games, but tickets will be sold only to residents of mainland China, the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday.

China had been expected to allow fans at the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics, something Tokyo officials did not permit at the Summer Games this year, citing concerns over rising coronavirus infections in a country with low vaccination rates. Wednesday’s announcement did not offer specifics about which events would have fans, saying details remain under discussion.

The announcement also offered some details about Beijing Olympics organizers’ plan to create a bubble that it called a “closed-loop management system.” In this plan, anyone arriving at the Olympics — including athletes and coaches — will enter the closed loop at the airport and be confined to a system of hotels, villages, training centers and competition venues fed by buses and trains dedicated only to the Olympics.

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While no one will be able to leave the closed loop, they will be allowed to move freely inside. Tokyo organizers had a looser bubble that permitted many non-athletes affiliated with the Games to travel openly around the city after being on-site for 14 days. Athletes, however, had strict limitations that kept them isolated from most other competitors and confined them to short stays in the Olympic Village. Beijing’s plan appears to let them stay and socialize as they would at a typical Olympics — with the stipulation that they don’t leave the closed loop. Everyone will be tested daily, the announcement noted.

Beijing organizers are placing a heavy emphasis on vaccination. Wednesday’s announcement said unvaccinated athletes must quarantine for 21 days upon arrival, though anyone with what the IOC called “a justified medical exception” will be able to have their case considered. Last week, the USOPC announced it will require all of its athletes at the Winter Games to be vaccinated.

Beijing organizers will announce more details in a guide called a “playbook” that is scheduled to be released in late October. An updated playbook is scheduled for December.

The Olympics start Feb. 4, and the Paralympics begin March 4.