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Thursday May 19, 2022

Beijing Olympic torch relay closed to public over COVID

Beijing will next month host the world's most restricted mass sporting event since the pandemic

By AFP
January 21, 2022
A man walks past a promotion for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, at the Olympic Park, two weeks before the start of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, on a snowy day in Beijing on January 20, 2022. — AFP
A man walks past a promotion for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, at the Olympic Park, two weeks before the start of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, on a snowy day in Beijing on January 20, 2022. — AFP 

BEIJING: The already scaled back Beijing Winter Olympics torch relay will be cordoned off from the general public because of COVID measures, organisers said on Friday.

The relay involving 1,200 torchbearers will take place across the Games' three sites and also travel to tourist attractions such as the Great Wall from February 2 to 4, when the Olympics open.

"Safety will always be prioritised for this torch relay," said Yang Haibin, a Games organising committee official responsible for the torch relay.

"Given epidemic control considerations... the torch relay and ceremonial activities will be arranged in safe and controllable closed venues."

In a break with tradition, there was no torch relay on Greek soil because of COVID before the flame arrived in China.

Last October's flame-lighting ceremony in Greece was disrupted by human rights activists.

Beijing will next month host the world's most restricted mass sporting event since the pandemic, with all participants required to operate in a strict "bubble" cut off from the outside world.

Organisers this week cancelled public ticket sales after the Chinese capital logged its first domestic Omicron outbreak.

Travel restrictions into Beijing have been tightened, with all visitors needing to provide recent negative test results, as China battles multiple nationwide outbreaks.

Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief, will take part in the torch relay and attend the Games, China's foreign ministry said Friday.

The run-up to the Games has been overshadowed by a diplomatic boycott led by the US over Beijing's human rights record, including abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region.

Yang added that the torch relay will avoid public roads "to avoid disruption to locals' lives and the organisation and running of the Games".