USOPC To Require Vaccines for Athletes at Winter Olympics

Photo credit: http://www.scmp.com

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced it will require all athletes who wish to participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to be vaccinated. This is in line with stricter COVID regulations coming out of China and a change from the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, which did not require vaccines.

USOPC Regulations

The USOPC has mandated that any athlete or team personnel wishing to use their training facilities must be fully vaccinated by November 1st. This would mean anyone not already vaccinated should receive their first dose (if a two dose vaccine) immediately to make it within the window to use the US Olympic training centers. As a deadline for the Games as a whole, all US athletes must be fully vaccinated by December 1st; otherwise, they will not be able to represent Team USA. The opening ceremony for the Olympics is set for February 4th, while the Paralympics will begin March 4th. The US is expected to send around 240 athletes to Beijing this winter and this measure will affect not only them, but all personnel assisting athletes or traveling to the Games.

Many winter athletes have already voiced their support of getting vaccinated, including Brock Crouch, a 22-year old Californian Olympic hopeful in snowboarding. During a recent training camp he mentioned to press, “We’ve been giving vaccines since we’re super young kids. If this is what it takes for us to get back to normal, and this is what it takes for us to have an event, I think that this is something that everybody has to adapt to.”

Vaccines were heavily encouraged for US athletes heading into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which were held this past summer, but were not required for competition. Despite that, the number of vaccinated USA personnel was high – around 80%. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated that around 85% of all athletes at the Tokyo Olympics were vaccinated. Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of USOPC, stated that the organization is leaving open the possibility for athletes to request a medical or religious exemption in limited circumstances, which would have to be acquired before November 1st.

Beijing COVID Regulations

China is poised to host a stricter Olympic Games than the Summer Olympics this past year including quarantines, daily testing, and limited spectators.

While the IOC has not yet required all Winter Olympic athletes to be vaccinated, they are strongly encouraged. Beijing will require all unvaccinated athletes or personnel to quarantine for 21 days upon arriving in China, however there is a possibility of avoiding the quarantine for a justified medical exemption. Daily testing is required for all attending, even if they are vaccinated – a move to ensure high levels of COVID monitoring and risk management. Once an athlete has completed competition, they will be required to depart the Games within 3 days.

In addition to quarantines and testing, the Beijing Olympic organizers will also implement a health security bubble beginning 2 weeks before the games and managed through to the end. This bubble will have some overlap, but it will be distinguished by the 3 main competition areas: Beijing, Zhangjiakou, and Chongli. This ensures freer movement to and from competition than was allowed in Tokyo; athletes and personnel will be able to more easily travel between living quarters, training facilities, and event zones. Those in the bubble will be required to stay in their hotel rooms and not stray outside the bubble, with special buses or other transportation taking them only to their registered and approved events.

In a similar move to Tokyo, spectators will be allowed, but only from local areas. Individuals residing in the China mainland and who meet strict COVID testing countermeasures will be the only ones allowed to buy tickets for the Games. This includes proof of vaccination for anyone attending an event. Other usual guests of the Games will still be banned, including those representing sponsors, members of the various sports bodies, and broadcasters.

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/22/sports/team-usa-vaccines-winter-olympics.html

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/sep/23/team-usa-vaccine-mandate-2022-winter-olympics-covid-19-beijing

https://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/id/32306937/organizers-detail-covid-19-rules-beijing-winter-olympics

https://supchina.com/2021/09/27/strict-covid-rules-expected-for-beijing-winter-olympics/

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Third year law student at the University at Buffalo School of Law and former collegiate 400m athlete with special interests in all areas of track & field.

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