China Not Sure if 2022 Winter Olympics Site Will Have ‘Public’ Spectators

Skaters slide past an empty section of spectator seats while competing in a quarterfinal of the men's 1,500 at the ISU World Cup Short Track speed skating competition, a test event for the 2022 Winter Olympics, at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

The manager of a Beijing venue that is set to host men’s ice hockey events during the 2022 Winter Olympics told China’s state-run Global Times on Thursday Olympic coordinators have yet to determine if seats in the stadium “will be open to the public.”

Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium will host the men’s ice hockey competition during the 2022 Winter Olympics in February. The venue has a capacity of roughly 18,000. About 6,000 of the stadium’s seats may be available to the public during the Olympic Games after zoning and arranged seating for event-related personnel are taken into account, the Global Times reported on December 2.

“However, it has not yet been determined whether the seats will be open to the public,” the newspaper revealed.

“The number of seats to be opened depends on the epidemic situation in Beijing and nationwide at the time of the event,” Lei Ming, a member of National Indoor Stadium’s operations team, told the Global Times.

“If there is no epidemic in the country by then, more seats will be open. But if the epidemic is more serious, it is even possible that the seats will not be open to spectators,” Lei said.

People wear protective masks as they walk in front of the logos of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at Yanqing Ice Festival on February 26, 2021, in Beijing, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

China has experienced a nationwide resurgence of its coronavirus caseload since mid-October. The epidemic started in a Chinese tour group that traveled from Shanghai to China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in early October. According to Chinese state media, some of the travel group’s members visited the China-Mongolia border town of Ejin Banner and contracted coronavirus from an unspecified foreign source. The tourists subsequently spread the virus throughout other Chinese regions as they traveled back home following the vacation.

Publications such as the Global Times, an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), have implied that the alleged foreign source of the outbreak came from Mongolia, though they have yet to provide evidence to support this theory.

Beijing has been especially hard-hit by China’s surging coronavirus caseload in recent weeks. The Chinese national capital was forced to postpone the 2021 Beijing Marathon in late October after state health officials decided the event posed a public health risk. The event’s organizers said they decided to call off the marathon “until further notice in order to prevent the risk of the epidemic spreading (and) effectively protect the health and safety of the majority of runners, staff, and residents.” The race was originally scheduled for October 31 and would have drawn roughly 30,000 participants and spectators to Beijing. The Chinese national capital is home to about 21 million people.

China’s last-minute decision to cancel the 2021 Beijing Marathon on October 24 — just one week before its scheduled start date — sparked speculation among international media that Beijing could struggle to successfully host the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will take place from February 2 through February 20. Organizers of the global sporting event have said the Games will be off-limits to spectators outside China in accordance with strict coronavirus protocol. The Winter Games promise to attract 2,900 athletes to Beijing in 63 days’ time.

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