China will no longer sell general public tickets for the Beijing Winter Olympics after the Chinese city reported its first local case of the omicron strain of COVID-19 on Saturday, just weeks before the Games begin on February 4.
“Given the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been decided that tickets should not be sold anymore,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement on Monday. “To ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, it has been decided that tickets should be part of an adapted program that will invite groups of spectators to be present on-site during the Games.”
Last year, Beijing announced several steps to keep athletes and spectators safe, including restricting ticket sales to mainland Chinese residents. In addition, more than 3,000 athletes, trainers, and support staff are expected to compete in the Winter Olympics in Beijing, with all participants in a “closed loop.” According to the Washington Post, those entering the loop must be adequately vaccinated before arriving in China — or face quarantine — and will be tested for COVID daily.
The organizing committee did not immediately answer the question about how many spectators will be allowed to attend the Winter Games in Beijing 2022.
The epidemic isn’t the only issue confronting the Beijing Winter Olympics. Due to security concerns, US athletes competing in Beijing have reportedly been advised to leave their phones at home. In addition, as a protest against China’s human rights issues, US officials are staging a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics.
The Beijing 2022 Winter Games will begin on February 4 and end on February 20. From March 4 to 13, the Paralympic Winter Games will occur in Sochi, Russia.