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Beijing Olympics torch relay confined to closed venues over COVID

Al Jazeera logo Al Jazeera 1/21/2022

The Beijing Winter Olympics organisers have announced that the torch relay will be cordoned off because of concern about the spread of the coronavirus.

The relay, involving 1,200 torchbearers, will begin on February 2 and wind up two days later when the games open in the capital, Beijing, and neighbouring Hebei province.

“This torch relay will always prioritise safety,” Yang Haibin, an official from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports told a briefing on Friday.

“Taking into account factors such as epidemic prevention … the torch relay and ceremonial activities will be arranged in safe and controllable closed venues.”

Beijing, the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games, is on high alert for the coronavirus after a handful of small outbreaks in various parts of the country that authorities have responded to with sweeping restrictions and mass testing.

All of the torchbearers must be vaccinated and will be tested for the coronavirus and have their health monitored for 14 days before the relay.

The relay route, which will be much shorter than previous ones, will include a stop at the Great Wall, China’s most famous landmark, as well as central Beijing’s Olympic parks, the Summer Palace and other venues, including International Grape Exhibition Garden and Zhangjiakou Industrial Culture Park.

Only selected members of the public will be allowed to watch the relay in person.

Beijing and the Hebei city of Zhangjiakou will stage the games from February 4 to February 20 inside a “closed loop” to keep participants separate from the public, and without spectators from the general public.

Preparations for the games have been disrupted by COVID-19 as well as a diplomatic boycott by countries including the United States over China’s human rights record.

China says that betrays Olympic principles and denies rights abuses.

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