How is China treating athletes at Beijing Olympics 2022?

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China’s assurance of a ‘safe and splendid’ Winter Olympics for athletes has fallen short. Athletes from all across the world are deeply unsatisfied and have expresed their frustration, not only for the Covid-19 rules that have been put in place, but also about the weather conditions they are being asked to compete in. 

How is China treating athletes at Beijing Olympics 2022?
© Provided by DailyO beijing olympics. photo: associated press Beijing Olympics 2022. Photo: Associated Press

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Some of the things done to avoid a Covid-19 outbreak at the Games are distanced interviews, athletes only being allowed to stay in the Olympics Village, and no tickets being sold to the public, but athletes at the Games are complaining over the lack of clarity in Covid-19 rules. (READ MORE HERE: 5 Covid rules set by China for Beijing Olympics 2022)

Here are some of the biggest areas of concern that athletes have brought to light: 

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1. TERRIBLE WEATHER CONDITIONS

The International Ski Federation clearly states that ski competitions should not take place when temperatures are below -20 degree Celsius, although it looks like China did not get the memo.

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Swedish cross-country skiier Frida Karlsson collapsed at the end of women’s 7.5km+7.5km skiathlon on February 5. Reportedly, the temperature at the time of the event was -13C and was held at the mountains of Zhangjiakou. The event started at 4 pm local time.

If you look closely at the image below, her mouth is quite literally frozen and the ice around it is clealy visible:

Þín kona, Frida Karlsson frá Svíþjóð sá um það fyrir alla keppendur í dag. pic.twitter.com/LirgMrri7S

— Gunnar Birgisson (@grjotze) February 5, 2022

Although Swedish team boss Anders Bystroem discussed the possibility of making a request to the organisers for a change in the schedule, he said that the possibility of any rescheduling to take place would be nearly impossible as this is the ‘Olympics’.

He said, “The women’s skiathlon on Saturday at 4 pm and Frida Karlsson was completely destroyed by the cold. It’s not good that the sprint starts even later … At the same time, I don’t think it will be possible to change the time because of the Olympic schedule.” 

Not just Frida, but American skater Nina O’Brien too faced the brunt of the terrible cold on February 7. The skater crashed just before the finish line and has seriously injured her legs. Here is the video of the crash: 

Scary crash! US skier Nina O’Brien injured her left leg in a crash. She was taken off the slopes in a stretcher but was alert and responsive pic.twitter.com/vRIu9LECVV

— John Rogers (@JohnRogers8News) February 7, 2022

2. POOR CATERING 

The food being served to athletes, both in isolation and not in isolation, is apparently of questionable quality. Talking about the food being provided to the athletes at the end of the ski hills, German skiing coach Christian Schwaiger said, “The catering is extremely questionable because really it’s not catering at all. I’d have expected that the Olympic Committee would be capable of providing hot meals. There are no hot meals. There are crisps, some nuts and chocolate, and nothing else. This shows a lack of focus on high-performance sport.” 

Russian biathlon competitor Valeria Vasnetsova, who has been in a quarantine hotel for almost over a week, took to Instagram on February 5 to tell the world about the food she has been receiving at the hotel. The photo she posted featured a red sauce, plain pasta, charred meat on bone, an unknown white piece of meat, small potatoes and not a single vegetable.

Valeria specified in the post that this has been her breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past 5 days.  

Is China using quarantines to rig the Olympics? A Russian athlete, Valeria Vasnetsova, has blown the whistle. She says foreign athletes who test positive for covid are being starved, so they can’t compete even if they recover. ? pic.twitter.com/tM79dQZEID

— Clint Ehrlich (@ClintEhrlich) February 5, 2022

While it is important to note that the food Valeria has received is from the hotel and not at the Village, it seems unjust that organisers only paid attention to the food being served at the Village and not in the hotels they chose to quarantine athletes at. 

A video that has been making the rounds on Twitter shows how contactless serving is taking place at the Village’s dining area. If you look closely at the end, you can see the amount of noodles being served.

Contactless Beijing Winter Olympics dining area#wow pic.twitter.com/eurPzhwjme

— мя. gяєєи ?️ (@iGreenGod) February 7, 2022

Seems like Team USA anticipated this situation and brought along bags of readymade pasta that only require hot water to cook.

3. INTENSE COVID-19 PROTOCOLS 

To say that athletes are exasperated would be an understatement. The rules that have been set by the organisers state that athletes who test positive but are asymptomatic would be staying in quarantine hotels, and those who test positive and show symptoms would be sent to hospitals. For either cases, athletes are supposted to test negative on two tests to return to the Games. 

Simple enough, right? Well, not for Polish speedskater Natalia Maliszewska. The 26-year-old speedskater has said that the experience has traumatised her. Natalia tested negative on the first test and was released from isolation a day before she was set to compete in the women’s 500m speedskater event on February 5. But just before the event was to begin, her second test came back positive and she was sent back into isolation. 

Natalia said, “I no longer believe in any tests, any Olympics. To me this is a big joke, I hope whoever is managing this has a lot of fun. My heart and my mind can’t take this anymore.”

Other than just mixups, human rights violation is apparently also taking place at the Games. Head coach of the Finnish Men’s Hockey team, Jukka Jalonen, has said that Marko Anttila, a member of the hockey team, has been unfairly kept in isolation. Even though Marko tested positive for Covid-19 before the Games began, he was able to produce several negative test results before the team departed for China. 

Finnish doctor Maarit Valtonen described the situation as, “From a medical perspective we know that a person like this is no longer infectious, no danger to the other team. These isolation decisions are not based on medicine or science; it’s more cultural and political decisions.” 

On February 2, Belgian skeleton racer Kim Meylemans described her isolation experience. Between tears, she said that she isn’t being allowed to stay in contact with anyone and she was taken into an ambulance and told that she is being taken to the Village.

Instead, she was taken to another isolation facility. She also said that she wasn’t sure that she would ever be allowed to return to the Village and could possibly not spend another 14 days in isolation. 

Here is the video: 

A post shared by Kim Meylemans (@kimmeylemans)

After posting the video, she was released from the isolation facility on February 3. 

The International Olympic Committee has said that they have begun to work with Olympic officials to address all concerns. International Olympics Committee Sports Director Kit McConnell told reporters on February 7 that the isolation facility conditions of athletes were the Committee’s highest priority.

For a country that assured the world that they were completely prepared to host the Games, it seems like China forgot to read a book on how to actually host guests, particularly athletes from different countries.

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