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Asian Games in Sept, China looks at strict ‘closed-loop’ Covid curbs

Late last month, it was reported that postponing the Asian Games, second only to Olympics in terms of size, was a possibility as China, where the coronavirus emerged in late 2019, faced its biggest Covid-19 crisis.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Mumbai |
Updated: May 4, 2022 7:29:39 am
Asian Games in Sept, China looks at strict ‘closed-loop’ Covid curbsNeeraj Chopra of India celebrates with his coach Uwe Hohn and other teammates after winning gold medal in 2018 Asian Games (Source: Reuters)

If the Tokyo Olympics presented athletes with the unique challenges of living and competing in a bio-bubble, this year’s Asian Games in the Chinese city of Hangzhou will likely be more of the same, perhaps even tougher.

In a busy second half of the year, India’s athletes will criss-cross the world, taking part in various World Cups, World Championships, Commonwealth Games and the Asiad. But after two years of pandemic-forced restrictions, while most events, including the Birmingham CWG, are likely to be less conditional, the Asian Games, scheduled to be held from September 10-25, could be an exception.

Amidst reports of a possible postponement, the Games’ organisers are pressing ahead with the preparations and have put plans in place for a strict “closed-loop” system, similar to the one that was enforced during the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, officials from two continental sports federations told The Indian Express.

Late last month, it was reported that postponing the Asian Games, second only to Olympics in terms of size, was a possibility as China, where the coronavirus emerged in late 2019, faced its biggest Covid-19 crisis. The country is battling a record number of daily cases in Shanghai, which has been under lockdown for over a month and is just a short train ride away from Hangzhou.

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The South China Morning Post reported last week that Hangzhou, an e-commerce hub, made it mandatory for each of its 10 million residents to take at least one nucleic acid test every 48 hours in an attempt to keep a check on Omicron outbreak.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) — ahead of its executive committee meeting on May 6, where the organisers are likely to present their plans — insisted that the Games will take place as planned. Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra said they received a letter from the OCA “four-five” days ago, informing them that there will be no postponement.

“We have intimation from Olympic Council of Asia, received four-five days ago, that the Asian Games are not being postponed and going ahead as scheduled,” Batra told The Indian Express, adding that they haven’t been informed so far about the conditions in which the Games will take place.

However, a senior official from a continental sports federation said they have received a letter from the organising committee, which said the multi-discipline event will take place in a “closed-loop” system, with strict Covid-19 counter-measures in place as well as a cap on non-playing delegations.

According to the Hangzhou Asian Games website, a “successful rehearsal of the closed-loop management” was held last week during China’s National Jujitsu Championships, which doubled up as a test event for the Asian Games.

The closed-loop is designed to keep the host city’s residents away from the visiting athletes and officials to ensure the Games take place without compromising on China’s zero-Covid policy.

Some of the conditions of the closed-loop will be similar to the rules that were enforced at the Tokyo Olympics last year, where Indian athletes won seven medals. Those entering the bubble will be required to be fully vaccinated or quarantined for 21 days after landing in China. They’ll have to undertake multiple Covid-19 tests before departure, while daily tests will be mandatory once they are inside the loop.

“Relevant information can be reviewed before boarding the buses, upon arrival at the venue, when entering or exiting the competition venue and upon return to the hotels,” a report on the official Games website stated.

Unlike Tokyo, however, where athletes and officials were allowed outside the bubble after the first 14 days, the visitors are unlikely to be allowed into non-Games sites at any point during the Asiad. During the Winter Olympics, layers of fences separated those within the bubble from the local population, with security guards monitoring the movement of people.

Batra said the organisers have allocated a quota of 937 athletes and officials. The final number, he added, would be similar to or little more than the 2018 Asian Games, where India sent 570 athletes in 36 sports along with 183 officials.

 

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