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Beijing Games still on schedule amid rise of Omicron variant

China's Olympic organizers hope their more restrictive COVID mitigation plan will keep Omicron at bayGETTY IMAGES

The Beijing Games are "still scheduled to go on as planned" even with the rise of the Omicron variant, with the Opening Ceremony set for one month from today, according to Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Beijing will bring more people into its "closed loop,'' a "lockdown zone designed to separate all Olympic participants from the public to minimize chances of an outbreak." And athletes all over the world will "continue wearing masks and avoiding crowds," knowing a positive COVID test could "knock them out of the Games." China's Olympic organizers hope their COVID mitigation plan -- which is "more restrictive than the protocols for last summer's Tokyo Olympics -- will keep Omicron at bay." IOC President Thomas Bach on Saturday said that he has "'great confidence' that the Games will go on in a safe and secure fashion." Blount notes approximately 90 countries have been planning to send athletes to Beijing, and "none have pulled out at this point." But officials from national Olympic committees are "monitoring the situation carefully, and nervously." Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker last week said he is "worried'' about Omicron's impact, yet he also is "confident these Games can still be scheduled safely.'' Shoemaker added that postponing the Games has "not been discussed with the IOC" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/4).

UNDERSTANDING THE CONCERN: IOC member Dick Pound said that he understands why Shoemaker said he is “worried” about the Beijing Games going ahead. Pound said, “If you’re the CEO of a national Olympic committee, you have to have the public demeanor of not being blind to the possibility that the whole thing could blow up." He added, “There is no indication that’s going to happen, but there is nothing in living memory that we’ve ever experienced of this nature." Pound, a Canadian who has been one of the most influential members of the IOC for decades, said Shoemaker “is worried more about the time period before the Games than during the Games themselves.” Asked to put a percentage on the chance of postponing or canceling the Games, Pound said the chances were “very slim" (USA TODAY, 1/4).

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