International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, in an open letter published by the IOC, said that those competing and attending the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing should expect the same level of COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place as were this past summer in Tokyo for the rescheduled 2021 Olympic Summer Games.
“While the pandemic is far from over, I would like to reassure you that together with our Chinese partners and friends, we are sparing no effort to make these Olympic Winter Games safe and secure for everyone,” Bach said about the Games in Beijing, which are scheduled for February 4–20. “As we did in Tokyo, we are putting in place rigorous COVID-19 countermeasures to ensure the health and safety of all Olympic participants in Beijing.”
Bach urged those who will be heading to Beijing to get vaccinated. Olympic teams were urged by the IOC to request more vaccines ahead of the 2022 Winter Games as about 100 countries are likely to compete in Beijing compared to 205 countries in Tokyo. Vaccination is encouraged but not mandatory for Beijing.
“I would like to encourage those National Olympic Committees who require additional vaccine doses … to inform our NOC relations department as soon as possible so that we can put the necessary arrangements in place,” Bach said in Friday’s letter.
Bach’s letter referred to “the athletes of these Olympic Games that will send this message of the unifying power of sport to the world,” but critics noted that it did not acknowledge global concerns about human rights issues in China. Activists have tried to brand it the “Genocide Games” because of China’s detention of Muslim minority Uyghur people in prison camps in Xinjiang province.
Human rights groups representing minorities in China have sent out a letter of its own — asking NBC and other worldwide broadcasters to cancel plans to cover and broadcast the Games in Beijing, telling broadcasters that they risk “being complicit” in the “worsening human rights abuses” in China.
The letter, obtained by the Associated Press, was sent to NBC Universal chief executive officer Jeff Shell and other international broadcast executives. NBC is paying $7.75 billion for the rights to the next six Olympics, which is estimated to account for up to 40% of the IOC’s total income.
The IOC included human rights requirements several years ago in the host city contract for the 2024 Paris Olympics, but it did not include the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for Beijing. Bach has consistently said the IOC is a politically neutral sports organization and has declined several recent calls to move the Olympics out of Beijing. His letter was published on the day Beijing organizers unveiled their Games slogan “Together for a Shared Future.”