WHO optimistic Beijing Winter Olympics can take place safely

By AFP   January 7, 2022 | 12:20 am PT
WHO optimistic Beijing Winter Olympics can take place safely
Flags fly at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games village. Photo by AFP
Beijing’s plans to ensure next month’s 2022 Winter Olympics go ahead safely during the Covid-19 pandemic look strong, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said the UN health agency had worked with the International Olympic Committee to provide technical advice on the safe hosting of the Games.

"The Chinese authorities have very strict measures in place, and they’ve released a series of different playbooks. We continue to review those playbooks with the IOC," he told a news conference.

"I’m confident that given the information we have, that the measures that are in place for the Games are very strict and very strong and we don’t, at this point, see any increased risk of disease transmission in that context."

However, he said China had witnessed some large Covid-19 outbreaks in recent weeks and Beijing would take a "very strong approach" to dealing with them.

"We will continue to monitor the situation," Ryan said.

"But certainly at this stage, given the arrangements that have been put in place for the athletes by the organizers, we don’t perceive that there’s any particular extra-risk in hosting or running the Games.

"But obviously we will keep all of the measures that are being put in place are under constant review."

Olympic chiefs on Wednesday urged all participants at the Games to be "extra vigilant" as Covid-19 infections hit unprecedented case levels in several countries.

At a closed-door meeting with national Olympic committees, Beijing 2022 organizers, international federations and the IOC dismissed any idea of a postponement of the February 4-20 Games due to the pandemic.

Beijing sealed up its Winter Olympic "bubble" on Tuesday, preparing the Games venues, transport and staff for the world’s strictest mass sporting event during the global pandemic.

China, where the virus emerged toward the end of 2019, has pursued a zero-tolerance strategy onCovid-19and is taking the same approach to limit the pandemic’s potential impact on the Winter Olympics and subsequent Paralympics.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was asked if he would be attending the Beijing Games, as he did with the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, which were postponed until last year due to the Covid crisis.

However, a spokeswoman said the WHO does not discuss the travel plans of its staff.

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