The exercise has become a ritual. On the home page of the official Beijing 2022 Winter Games website, a digital countdown displays the days remaining before the opening ceremony. Only 143 in this Tuesday, September 14. Less than five months.
At this stage of the preparation, the vagueness continues to envelop the conditions of organization and hosting of the next Olympic and Paralympic meeting. With or without an audience? What sanitary bubble? What form of quarantine? A lot of questions. Few answers.
On Monday, September 13, a statement from the International Skating Union (ISU) further heightened the uncertainty. The body announces the cancellation of the Four Continents Championships, a competition of figure skating and ice dance open to non-European competitors. They are due to be held in Tianjin, China, from January 17 to 22, 2022, just two weeks before the opening of the Beijing Winter Games. The city of Tianjin is located less than 150 kilometers from the Chinese capital.
Reason given by the organizers: travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, security and the logistical challenge. Officially, the competition has not yet been removed from the international calendar for the 2021/2022 season. The ISU explains inviting its members to submit an application for the event in place of the Chinese, on the date initially scheduled (January 17 to 22, 2022). Based on the proposals received, the Council of the instance will make a decision at its next meeting on October 1, 2021.
But the essential is elsewhere.
With less than five months of the opening of the Beijing Winter Games, China is no longer content to strike out one by one all the international sporting events scheduled on its soil until the end of the year. It is now pushing the cursor until January 2022, i.e. in the home stretch before the start of the Winter Games.
The cancellation of the Four Continents Championships comes just weeks after the Chinese decided to give up the organizer of the China Figure Skating Cup, the ISU Grand Prix stage. It is to be held from November 4 to 7, 2021 in Chongqing.
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As a coincidence, the announcement of the cancellation of the Four Continents Championships came on the same day as the WTA's decision to relocate the Finals of the women's professional tennis circuit. They are scheduled to take place in November in Shenzhen, the host city of the annual event in 2030. They will move to Guadalajara, Mexico.
With such an avalanche of renouncements, the Olympic movement can already prepare for the Winter Games without a foreign audience. Officially, the decision has not yet been taken. But the Chinese government has let it filter that the number of international arrivals should not exceed a ceiling of 30,000, a gauge that leaves little room for people other than the athletes and their technical staff, officials and the media.
For the rest, mystery.
The organizing committee has still not started selling the venue to the Chinese public. It could never be launched. According to several sources, the Chinese are waiting to see how the 14th China National Games, the biggest national sporting event, will go. It is due to start on Wednesday, September 15 in Xi'an.
Presented as a life-size test of the Beijing Winter Games, they will host around 13,000 Chinese athletes. To prevent any risk of the virus spreading, local authorities closed in mid-August more than 4,000 restaurants, bars and tourist spots. They also carried out compulsory screening of the city's 13 million inhabitants. Ticket holders must be fully vaccinated for at least 14 days. They will present a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before the start of the event.
According to the IOC, the first practical guide to the Beijing Games detailing the health measures established for accredited members, this now famous "playbook" prepared for the first time by the Japanese for the Tokyo Games, will be published before the end of October . It should allow to know a little more about the travel, movement and stay restrictions decided by the Chinese. Less than four months from the opening ceremony