Foreign athletes arrive in Beijing for Olympics test events

Society & Culture

Meanwhile: Wu Lei's 95th-minute goal gives China 3-2 win over Vietnam in crucial World Cup qualifier.

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China has finally opened up its borders to foreign Olympic athletes, prompted by the start last Tuesday of Beijing 2022 test events.

The test events are a requirement for host nations before the Games begin, and will run until December 31. About 2,000 overseas athletes are expected to arrive in China for the test events — in speed skating, skeleton, luge, figure skating, curling, wheelchair curling, bobsleigh, ice hockey, freestyle ski cross, snowboard cross, Nordic combined, and biathlon, among others — with China also set to trial its “closed-loop” bubble policy.

Under this policy, vaccinated athletes arriving in China for the test events and the Olympics are not subject to the three-week quarantine enforced on other overseas arrivals. China had initially planned to apply its quarantine policy for test-event athletes, but had to backtrack after pressure from various federations and Olympic committees.

The first athletes to arrive were speed skaters and bobsleigh athletes, numbering around 460. They were met by authorities in Hazmat suits before being escorted to their bubble.

The sight of Hazmat-suited chaperones for foreign athletes will be something athletes will get very used to, as officials continue maintaining the country’s COVID-zero policy.

“The hosting of the international test events that involves foreigners will increase COVID-19 risks,” Huang Chun, one of the Beijing 2022 officials in charge of COVID prevention at Beijing 2022, told China Daily. “But we’ve deployed a thorough containment plan, and vigilant measures will be in place to guarantee the safety of all participants and particularly residents of the host cities.”

Only speed skaters from the Netherlands and South Korea competed in the test event, with skaters from the two countries claiming two golds each. China’s Yáng Bīnyú 杨滨瑜 narrowly missed out to Dutch skater Sophie Kraaijeveld in the women’s 3000m.

The sliding events saw more international competition. South Korean Eunji Kim became the first person from outside China to complete a run at the Sliding Dragon, commenting, “This track is amazing, and the ice condition is very good; it’s great for sliding.”

Former Canadian gold medalist Kaillie Humphries also arrived in Beijing in U.S.A. colors ahead of her expected Olympic switch next year. She is expected to compete in the women’s monobob, a new event at Beijing 2022.

The sliding test competitions will last for the next three weeks.

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China back in World Cup hunt after last-gasp Wu winner

China’s World Cup dreams are still kicking thanks to talisman Wú Xī’s 吴曦 95th-minute winner against Vietnam last Thursday.

After losing its opening two games to Asian heavyweights Australia and Japan, China, which sits fifth out of a six-team group, managed to show a bit more quality over Vietnam in a 3-2 win.

However, concerns remain. While China was clearly the better side for 80 minutes, the defense began to crumble under late pressure, with Vietnam scoring goals in the 80th and 90th minute to level the game. The lack of organization and clear leadership at the back has been a major problem.

Still, a win is a win, and China is now level with Oman and Japan. The next test is Saudi Arabia, which stunned Japan 1-0 last week and is currently second in the standings behind Australia.

Despite winning all three of their matches so far, the Saudis are ranked 61st in the world. China should have a chance. Against Oman, the Saudis struggled to make opportunities and looked vulnerable to the counter. Against Vietnam, Saudi fell behind early before needing the referee’s help to reduce Vietnam to 10 men and award them two penalties.

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Other Stories:

Fabio Cannavaro: Chinese Super League was high but things changed (SCMP)

Beijing Olympics open in 4 months; human rights talk absent (AP)

Klæbo welcomes ‘overdue’ Norwegian Ski Federation’s Beijing 2022 human rights stance (Inside the Games)

FIFA postpone China Club World Cup until next year (ESPN)


The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.