The Olympic Games, which kick off in a week in Beijing, are facing a major crisis. Despite the complete absence of foreign fans and numerous other anti-coronavirus measures like “bubbles”, the total number of people infected with COVID-19 among those who arrived at the Olympics has already exceeded a hundred. A few more cases were identified among athletes from different countries who were just about to fly to China. Now the Russian Olympic team looks the most affected: members of the bobsleigh, figure skating, skeleton and biathlon teams passed positive tests.
The fewer days left before the start of the Beijing Olympics, the more identified cases of COVID-19 infection. The total number of cases among arrivals in Beijing, according to the Chinese newspaper South China Morning Post, has exceeded 100 people. In addition, more than a dozen cases of COVID-19 were found among athletes who were about to fly to the Games.
They look quite significant against the general background of the loss of the Russian team. Moreover, in several cases, we are talking about key contenders for the medals of the Beijing Olympics, which there is simply no one to replace.
The first person to test positive for the coronavirus was Russian figure skater Mikhail Kolyada, who four years ago won silver at the Pyeongchang Games in the team figure skating tournament. It soon became clear that another silver medalist of the 2018 Olympics, Nikita Tregubov, fell ill. In Beijing, he could fight for a gold medal in skeleton. Hit – and with all his might – the coronavirus and the team of bobsledders. Aleksey Pushkarev and dispersing Vasily Kondratenko went to self-isolation. Theoretically, both Tregubov and Pushkarev with Kondratenko can recover in time for the competition, but the team, however, is discussing possible replacements.
The situation with Russian biathletes also looks alarming.
The result of a test for coronavirus from the head of the biathlon service group, Alexander Pechersky, turned out to be positive.
In addition, the head coach of the women’s team Mikhail Shashilov and two of his wards, Irina Kazakevich and Valeria Vasnetsova, could not fly to Beijing along with the rest of the team. They need to present additional documentary evidence of a previously transferred coronavirus.
Difficulties arose with the Olympians from Norway. Norwegian skiers, who traditionally take away the most medals from the Olympic Games, faced problems. At the Pyeongchang Olympics in cross-country skiing, the Norwegians – the main rivals of the Russians – earned seven gold medals, four silvers and three bronzes. Now the situation may turn out differently. The men’s sprint coach, Arild Monsen, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus and has been interacting with members of the ski team. For this reason, all skiers, including the favorite of the Beijing Olympics, three-time Olympic champion in 2018, Johannes Klebo, temporarily suspended training and went into self-isolation. Then it became known that two athletes fell ill – three-time world champion Heidi Weng, as well as Anne Kalvo. They are likely to miss the first races that open the Olympic competitive program.
Losses in the German national team, in which the two-time world champion in skeleton Axel Jung fell ill, and in Switzerland, which was left without several hockey players – Alina Muller and Sinya Limann.
Earlier, due to the increased number of positive tests among athletes, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on its official website that it was simplifying the rules for admitting sick athletes to the Games.
“We are discussing with a group of medical experts the possibility of reducing the interval between tests and sending to the Games. This will increase the number of participants in the competition. All such situations will be considered separately,” said IOC Director Pierre Ducret. According to the current regulations, two PCR tests must be submitted at least eight working days before the planned date of departure for the Olympics.