China has finally opened up its borders to foreign athletes, prompted by the start last Tuesday of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics test events.
The test events are a requirement for host nations before the Games begin, and will run until December 31. About 2,000 overseas athletes are expected to arrive in China for the test events — in speed skating, skeleton, luge, figure skating, curling, wheelchair curling, bobsleigh, ice hockey, freestyle ski cross, snowboard cross, Nordic combined, and biathlon, among others — with China also set to trial its “closed-loop” bubble policy.
Under this policy, vaccinated athletes arriving in China for the test events and the Olympics are not subject to the three-week quarantine enforced on other overseas arrivals.
The first athletes to arrive were speed skaters and bobsleigh athletes, numbering around 460. They were met by authorities in Hazmat suits before being escorted to their bubble.
The sight of Hazmat-suited chaperones for foreign athletes will be something athletes will get very used to, as officials continue maintaining the country’s COVID-zero policy.
“The hosting of the international test events that involves foreigners will increase COVID-19 risks,” said Huang Chun, one of the Beijing 2022 officials in charge of COVID prevention at Beijing 2022. “But we’ve deployed a thorough containment plan, and vigilant measures will be in place to guarantee the safety of all participants and particularly residents of the host cities.”
Only speed skaters from the Netherlands and South Korea competed in the test event, with skaters from the two countries claiming two golds each. China’s Yang Binyu narrowly missed out to Dutch skater Sophie Kraaijeveld in the women’s 3000m.
The sliding events saw more international competition. South Korean Eunji Kim became the first person from outside China to complete a run at the Sliding Dragon, commenting, “This track is amazing, and the ice condition is very good; it’s great for sliding.”
Former Canadian gold medalist Kaillie Humphries also arrived in Beijing in U.S.A. colors ahead of her expected Olympic switch next year. She is expected to compete in the women’s monobob, a new event at Beijing 2022.
The sliding test competitions will last for the next three weeks