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World leaders boycott, public not allowed to buy tickets to Beijing Winter Olympics
CHINA - In response to the ongoing pandemic, tickets for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics will not be sold to the general public, but instead be distributed by authorities.
The Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee announced the decision Monday, calling the situation "grim" and "complex."
It added that audiences will still be required to "strictly comply with COVID prevention and control requirements before, during and after watching the Games."
The International Olympic Committee says "the IOC must remain neutral on all global political issues," but widespread criticism of the Chinese government, especially over alleged human rights abuses, led the Biden administration to announce a diplomatic boycott of the Games.
The 2022 Olympics will also see a diplomatic boycott by Australia, Britain and Canada. Athletes from these countries will still be able to participate, though leaders will not be in attendance.
In December, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the boycott would serve as a "clear message" against China's "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang."
According to the US State Department, up to two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to have passed through detention centers in Xinjiang, which the Chinese government claims are "vocational training centers" aimed at poverty alleviation and combating religious extremism.
In addition to the political controversy surrounding the 2022 Olympics, worries of the pandemic alone have some staying home. The National Hockey League has taken its players out of the Games entirely in light of coronavirus concerns.
Keeping people away from the major event comes after Beijing reported its first case of the highly transmissible Omicron variant on January 15.
Some cities are in lockdown after experiencing the largest COVID outbreak that China has seen since the early days of the pandemic, though the lockdown was attributed to widespread cases of the Delta variant.
On Sunday, Beijing Daily reported that the capital will require travelers to take nucleic acid tests within 72 hours of entry starting Jan. 22.
Officials across the country also urged residents to stay in their cities for the new year, instead of traveling back to their hometowns.
Beijing will become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games following its Olympic debut in 2008, though this time, organizers intend to hold the Games in a "closed-loop system" to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As outlined in a Games playbook published in December, the closed-loop system will encompass venues, official hotels and the event's own transport service.
There are around 3,000 participants. Those who are fully vaccinated will be able to enter the closed-loop without quarantining, but those who aren't vaccinated will need to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival in Beijing.
"The loop is very safe. It's a place that I would say is very difficult to compare with any other place in the world at this point in time, because we have here a fully vaccinated, often boosted population that is being tested daily with a PCR and living in a closed-loop," Pierre Ducrey, Olympic Games operations director for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), told reporters on January 12.
Ducrey added, "It is called a closed-loop for that very reason. It means there will be no contact between people outside the loop and inside the loop. It has been built to protect the population inside, and also the population outside."
Last month, organizers said preparation was "very much on track" for the Games to be delivered as planned. The Beijing Winter Olympics are set to begin February 4.
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