Despite a glamourous opening of Beijing’s Winter Olympics, China is currently hit with a litany of complaints, effectively gutting promises of “streamlined, safe and most splendid” Games in just two days into the events. Lack of closed-loop and unavailability of hot food has sparked anguish and frustration among participants. To top it all, stringent isolation rules on testing COVID positive left athletes in tears.
On Sunday, Swedish athletes highlighted that the conditions in the mountains were highly unfavourable due to the numbing cold. Frida Karlsson, a Swede skater was on the edge of collapsing at the same time as one of the women skiathlon champions as temperatures plummeted in the day. As per instructions by the International Ski Federation (FIS), skiing must be stopped when temperatures drop below -20°C, but on Saturday Karlsson competed when temperatures at the National Cross-country Center in Zhangjiakou dropped to -13°C, with windchill far colder, The Guardian reported. “The skiathlon started at 4 p.m. and Frida Karlsson was completely destroyed by the cold,” said Swedish team leader Anders Bystroem. The team called for the women’s sprint race to be moved earlier owing to the freezing temperatures. A similar incident was informed by German skiers, who had to stay famished on being unable to get hot food at downhill skiing.
“We have the cold lemons but I do not know if they also measure the wind effect. If FIS says it’s -17°C and it’s windy and it’s -35°C with the windchill, what do you do then?” Swedish team leader Anders Bystroem told reporters.
[Skiers fall while competing during the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km skiathlon cross-country skiing competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Image: AP]
Polish skater forced to miss race due to isolation
While the chill remained an unresolvable issue, stringent COVID-19 isolation rules forced athletes into a breakdown. A Polish skater was living in a state-registered isolation ward until she cried to herself. “Since a week I have been living in fear and these changes in mood. I cry until I have no more tears and make not only the people around me worry but myself too,” said Natalia Maliszewska. Owing to the zero-COVID policy, the skater was pushed into mandatory quarantine on testing positive, eventually missing her 500m short track event on Saturday.
[Pietro Sighel of Italy crashes during his heat of the men’s 1,000-meter during the short track speedskating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Image: AP]
“This night was a horror… I was afraid that at any moment someone would take me back to isolation… Then message that unfortunately they were mistaken that I am a threat and should not have been released from isolation,” Polish skater Maliszewska and a participant at Beijing’s Winter Olympics told the Guardian.
The Games began against the backdrop of severe criticism of Beijing over its repressive actions against Uyghur, Tibetans, Hong Kong, and ethnic minorities. In addition, COVID measures have also played an enormous role in violating human rights by depriving them of basic supplies. Over 350 participants, including dozens of athletes, tested positive on arrival since January 23. While many are still in isolation, experts suggested that the decisions are based on “cultural and political” instincts more than medicine or science.