Beijing 2022 organisers urge use of temporary flights to and from China amid closed-loop system challenges

LAUSANNE, November 7, 2021 – The first version of the Beijing 2022 Playbook released last month confirmed what some journalists had predicted in interviews with AIPS during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: stricter restrictions than in Tokyo. And this has raised lots of concerns, especially for journalists who are planning to cover the Games on site. 

 

CLOSED LOOP One of the key principles highlighted by the playbook is the “closed-loop management system” which has been introduced “to keep Games participants and the people of China safe through reducing unnecessary interactions” during the Games. Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at least 14 days prior to departure can enter the system without the need for a 21-day quarantine upon arrival in China. 

 

DAILY TESTING In the playbook it is stated that: “Within the closed loop, all Games participants travelling to Beijing (and domestic workforce in regular contact with other Games participants) will be subject to daily health monitoring and testing, and will only be allowed to move between permitted destinations (including Games venues, accommodation facilities, etc.) in dedicated vehicles.”

 

But there are doubts about the possibility of working properly in such a system, which applies to all three Olympic zones; Beijing, Zhangjiakou and Yanqing. 

 

BRIEFING FOR PRESS Organisers tried to clarify some of these doubts during the remote Playbook Stakeholder Briefing for Press, jointly organised by IOC Media Operations and Beijing 2022 Press Operations on November 5. 

 

Director General Beijing 2022 Media Operations, Xu Jicheng, in his welcome remarks said: “We are really looking forward to seeing you in Beijing… Here in Beijing everybody just wants a truly safe and successful Games so the playbook is the all-important foundation for all of us.” 

 

RESPECT THE RULES In their pre-recorded video messages, President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach and Chairman of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (BOCOG) Liu Qi both urged the press to respect the rules that has been put in place for a “simple, safe and splendid Beijing 2022”. 

 

CONSEQUENCES Pierre Ducrey, IOC Olympic Games Operations Director, who gave a presentation on the highlights of the first version of the playbook, emphasised that those who fail to adhere to the rules may face disciplinary consequences. “We know the value of this interaction we are having today, we will take your feedback and try to further improve the second version of the playbook,” he assured. 

 

IOC Media Operations Associate Director, Lucia Montanarella, explained that there has been “no drastic reduction” in the capacity of press areas at Beijing 2022 hence the Advanced Booking System, which was introduced at the Tokyo 2020 Games, has been abandoned. She gave a presentation on the press-specific countermeasures. 

 

FLIGHTS TO BEIJING There are three ways to enter China as stated in the playbook; charter, temporary and commercial flights. However, in response to a question which called attention to the limited number of commercial flights allowed into the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BOCOG is encouraging people to use temporary or chartered flights supplemented by commercial flights. The Beijing 2022 organisers clarified that it is possible to transit through Hong Kong or any other country’s airport but the first point of entry in Mainland China must be Beijing Capital International Airport. 

 

“The procedure to book the commercial flights is just as normal. If you need Beijing 2022’s support, you can contact relevant departments. The charter flights can be negotiated for by the stakeholders themselves. For the temporary flights, Beijing 2022 and CAC encouraged China and foreign airlines with operating permit of international regular passenger airline to and from Beijing to operate as Beijing 2022 temporary flights and till now there are at least 15 airlines that wish to provide the temporary flights and we will provide a list so you can contact these airlines to arrange your flights and the temporary flights will only be open to the Olympic participants. The temporary flights can reach 60 cities and over 40 countries. Now we are planning to take Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris as transfer hubs but we are still in the negotiation stage and we are also negotiating with Singapore. So, during the Games there will be temporary flights between Beijing and these transfer hubs. So, if you can book the tickets of these flights, then you won’t have any problem entering China. The whole plan regarding international flights would be released in November, so when the airlines confirm their plans, we will update this information. Then as for the departure from China, you must take chartered flights or temporary flights.” 

 

PRE-CLOSED LOOP During her presentation, Montanarella stated that the arrangements for those who would arrive in China before the closed-loop system comes into effect, are still being finalized. Considering that between January 4 and January 22 there would be few Games-related arrivals in China, Xu Jicheng has advised that stakeholders inform the Beijing 2022 organisers of those that would be arriving earlier so that a tailor-made closed-loop, including transportation, accommodation, catering, etc, could be arranged in a smaller scale. Montanarella clarified that the survey which was sent out by BOCOG a few weeks ago was to get such details from media organisations about their arrivals in Beijing and has nothing to do with Activity Plans as those are not required in Beijing.  

 

TRANSPORTATION In response to a question about if there is a special permit to walk in the streets of Beijing, Montanarella said “no”. As part of its transportation system, BOCOG said it is negotiating with local services to provide taxi services. As stated in the playbook: “Accredited media within the closed loop should use dedicated Games transport services only, to travel to places on the list of permitted destinations, e.g. media hotels, competition and non-competition venues.”

 

LEAVING THE LOOP BOCOG is encouraging overseas Olympic participants to leave China as soon as they are done with their Games-related activities. “They cannot leave the closed-loop to go to other places. If it is necessary for them to stay in China then they need to abide by the procedures of leaving the closed loop, which also applies to those living in China,” Xu Jicheng said. Since those within the closed loop are not allowed to have contact with the general public or anyone outside of the closed loop, he also suggested that media organisations wishing to cover the city and report on the public could keep some of their correspondents outside the loop. Xu Jicheng explained that another option is to go to BOCOG’s Interview Service Desk at the MPC to request for help. For journalists who would want to remain in China after the Olympics so they can cover the Paralympics, they have been informed that they will need to transfer to any of the hotels designated for the Paralympic Games as not all the hotels used during the Olympics will still be used for the Paralympics. Booking can only be done via BOCOG. 

 

CATERING Beijing 2022 organisers gave the assurance that hotels will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as 24 hours room service. No food delivery service is allowed and all of the hotels that will accommodate Games participants will provide convenience stores. Meanwhile the media dining hall in the Main Press Centre (MPC) will also be open for 24 hours. However, food consumption in the MPC is only allowed in dedicated areas; dining area, media lounge and coffee bar.  

 

INTERNET According to Montanarella, “it’s been a commitment for Beijing 2022 to provide unrestricted access to internet throughout the Games”. She explained that they are doing this in different ways. There is internet access by cables or Wi-Fi in every Olympic venue; competition and non-competition venues. The TM shuttle bus services and the media carriages in the trains will have Wi-Fi connection. Then, each media hotel has a designated common area equipped with wi-fi connection. Meanwhile there is also the option of ordering a sim card with unrestricted internet through BOCOG. 

 

The second version of the Beijing 2022 playbook would be released in December, as the Beijing 2022 organisers continue to look for solutions to the challenges related to the Games scheduled to start on February 4, 2022

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