The IOC reports the highest number of cases among gaming-related personnel, and condemns calls for a boycott of Beijing 2022.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to deliver a “safe and magnificent” Winter Olympics as organizers report that they have discovered dozens of new coronavirus infections among people associated with the Games.
Xi spoke at a session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Beijing on Thursday – a day before the opening ceremonies of the Games – Xi said “China is ready” to host an event that lives up to the Olympic slogan “faster, higher, stronger – together “.
“We will do our best to deliver a streamlined, safe and excellent game to the world,” he said.
When the Games officially open in Beijing on Friday, the Chinese capital will be the first city to host both the summer and winter editions of the Olympics.
But preparations for the event have been hit by diplomatic boycotts as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
The competition, in which about 3,000 athletes are expected to participate, is set to become the world’s toughest mass sporting event since the pandemic began, with all game-related staff subjected to daily tests and placed in a “closed loop” system that seals them from the Chinese public.
The chairman of the Beijing 2022 medical expert panel, Brian McCloskey, speaking at the same IOC session on Thursday, said a total of 55 new COVID-19 infections had been found among the game-related staff on Wednesday.
The figure – which includes 29 among new airport arrivals and 26 among those in the Olympic bubble – is the highest reported so far in a single day.
But McCloskey says he is not worried and expects to see things ease when all participants arrive.
“The numbers are very small,” he said. “We are confident that the system will work. But we do not relax. We keep all measures in place. ”
He added that there had been 287 positive tests from a total of 610,000 tests since January 23rd.
Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, also said that “everything is in place for safe and excellent winter games”. But he condemned the diplomatic boycott of this year’s Olympics, led by the United States and joining Britain, Canada and Australia.
The boycotting countries said their move was prompted by concerns over China’s alleged human rights violationsincluding its treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups.
Rights groups have also long criticized the IOC for allocating the Games to China.
But Bach has repeatedly defended his organization’s election to the 2022 Olympics, saying the IOC was not a political body nor was it its mandate to influence laws in sovereign states.
He said on Thursday that in the two years leading up to the Beijing Games, he had seen “the dark clouds of the growing politicization of sports on the horizon”.
“We also saw the boycott ghosts of the past raise their ugly heads in some people’s minds again,” Bach said, referring to how the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympics had all been hit by boycotts of countries during the Cold War era. .
The movements seriously shocked the event’s universality and economy.
“That’s why we’ve worked even harder to get this unifying mission from the Olympics out to as many leaders and decision makers as possible,” Bach said.
He also noted what he said were major commercial opportunities created by these games, which he expected would transform the global winter sports industry.
“Today we can say that China is a winter sports country. This is why Beijing 2022 will be the start of a new era of global winter sports,” said Bach.
He estimated that China’s winter sports industry would be worth about $ 150 billion by 2025.
“From this tremendous growth, the winter sports industry worldwide will benefit,” Bach said.