A worker walks past an installation featuring a National Speed Skating Oval and logos of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, January 17, 2022. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

Tickets for the Beijing Winter Olympics next month will not be made available to the general public in response to Covid-19 concerns, the event’s organizing committee announced Monday.

“In terms of the grim and complex situation of epidemic prevention and control [and] in order to protect the health and safety of Olympic personnel and spectators, we have decided to change the original plan of public ticket sales,” the Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee said.

China had already prohibited foreign spectators from attending the Winter Games.

The decision came less than two days after health authorities reported Beijing’s first case of the Omicron variant, sending one of the capital’s neighborhoods into immediate lockdown under the country’s “zero tolerance” policy for Covid-19.

The committee said it had crafted an “adapted program” to allow spectators that had been sufficiently screened and quarantined, a group that could include government workers, sponsors or government officials, according to the New York Times. 

The International Olympic Committee released a statement on Monday: “The organizers expect that these spectators will strictly abide by the Covid-19 countermeasures before, during and after each event so as to help create an absolutely safe environment for the athletes.”

Organizers have created a “closed loop” plan to isolate athletes, spectators, journalists and Olympic workers within the three clusters of venues where the events will take place. The organizing committee had planned to allow vaccinated and tested spectators to buy tickets to enter the three bubbles before shifting gears on Monday.

Despite the closed loop system and strict mitigation measures, which would have still forced Chinese citizens to quarantine for 21 days after leaving the Games, the organizers felt the interaction between the Chinese public and the international crowd would pose too great a risk. 

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed last month that the U.S. government delegation planned to boycott the Olympic Games over the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, including the presumed suppression of tennis star Peng Shuai.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses. The athletes on team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games,” Psaki said.

She said American competitors will participate in the games without U.S. government presence.

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