China Claims 119 Olympic Athletes and Staff Tested Positive for Coronavirus

The Olympic rings are displayed at the main media center for the Beijing Winter Olympics on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Chinese officials on Sunday claimed to have discovered 119 coronavirus infections among athletes and staff at the Beijing Winter Olympics, including 37 new cases on Sunday.

All of these infections were supposedly brought into the Beijing Olympic “bubble” from outside, as Chinese officials insisted there have been no confirmed cases of local transmission within the secured area.

Reuters on Monday quoted some athletes mourning the end of their Olympic ambitions due to positive test results, while others were nervous about the mounting number of coronavirus cases in Beijing.

“You’re like, just so stressed about making sure you’re as safe as you can be, yet at the same time, there’s no way to be 100 percent safe. There have been a lot of athletes that are testing positive right now and it’s scary, because you put in four years since the last Games, and for all of that to go to waste in the last week, last couple of days, it would be a tragedy,” U.S. luger Chris Mazdzer said.

“Unfortunately, my Olympic dream will remain just a dream. Maybe one day I will find the strength to rise again but it will be a completely different story,” sighed Russian biathlete Valeria Vasnetsova, whose Olympic bid met precisely the fate Mazdzer described after she tested positive.

Reuters noted that most Olympic personnel were tested before traveling to Beijing, and some were disqualified from making the journey after they tested positive.

China’s state-run Global Times trumpeted the success of the “closed-loop biosecurity bubble,” even as dozens of Olympians and support staff were disqualified and quarantined:

As the number of Olympic-related arrivals increased, a number of positive cases were expected and anticipated, Huang Chun, a counter-epidemic official of the Beijing organizing committee said at a press briefing Saturday.

Brian McCloskey, head of the Beijing 2022 Medical Expert Panel said on Saturday that the number of positive cases detected is likely to peak in the near future.

In general, the COVID-19 tests at customs are more likely to screen out those positive cases while transmission and morbidity within the closed loop are relatively low, and there has been no transmission within the closed loop so far, Huang said.

The Global Times quoted McCloskey praising Beijing’s closed-loop system as “complete, efficient, and reliable,” including its “triple-layered testing approach.”

Outside the Olympic “bubble,” even the Chinese government’s always-questionable figures showed coronavirus cases “spiking” and lockdowns spreading, as the BBC reported Sunday:

The country’s National Health Commission (NHC) reported 20 new cases in Beijing on Sunday – the highest number since June 2020.

Local officials have locked down housing compounds in the Fengtai district – where many of the cases were recorded. Some 2 million people will be tested for the virus in response, AFP news agency reports.

The NHC reported 54 new cases in total nationwide on Sunday, including cases in the eastern city of Hangzhou and Suifenhe in Heilongjiang province.

The Associated Press reported Beijing’s Chaoyang district was locked down on Saturday, with all residents trapped inside. Nineteen testing centers were set up across Chaoyang to perform daily coronavirus tests on residents throughout the coming week.

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