Zero COVID-19 Policy | China is isolating itself from the sports world

(Beijing) Asian Games and Summer Athletics and Universities Meetings: Canceling or postponing major international meetings further isolates the global sporting scene, i.e. China, which favors lockdown to implement a policy of no spread of COVID-19.

Posted at 9:49

Matthew Walsh
France media agency

Before the epidemic, the country had been gaining momentum since 2000, organizing the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Shanghai, the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and several world championships or tennis tournaments.

But with the exception of the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, which were held in February and March in a health bubble, China has not hosted any major international competition since the beginning of the epidemic.

the reason ? It wants to avoid epidemics at all costs.

The latest event victim of this policy: the Asian Games, a major continental meeting of all-around sports that was tentatively scheduled for September 10-25 in Hangzhou, which has been postponed indefinitely The announcement was made on Friday due to the “health situation”.

China has been living normally since the spring of 2020, thanks to its zero-to-COVID-19 strategy that consists of confinement, quarantine on arrival in the territory, isolating the infected, and de facto closing the borders.

But the country has been facing an epidemic resurgence since March, affecting several counties.

In addition to the Asian Games, Friday also saw the cancellation of the Asian Youth Games, which were scheduled to take place in December in the Chinese city of Shantou.

The 2021 Summer Universiade, the Collegiate Athletic Olympiad that was already first postponed to the summer of 2022, has been pushed back to 2023.

Organizers announced Friday that the Diamond League athletics meetings scheduled to be held in Shanghai (July 30) and Shenzhen (August 6) will not take place.

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The Olympic and Paralympic health bubble – where participants took daily COVID-19 testing and were unable to mingle with the general population – seems more of an exception than the rule.

“It was a huge political priority and nothing could stop it,” Chinese sports analyst Mark Dreyer told AFP.

“The Asian Games is a big event. But it is not big enough” to be maintained, he believes.

According to him, the international sports calendar will remain event-free in China as long as COVID-19 zero continues.

The Club World Cup, due to take place in China in 2021, had already been postponed. The Shanghai GP and the men’s (ATP) and women’s (WTA) tennis tournaments have already been cancelled.

Frequent COVID-19 tests, precautions to take before departure, placement in solitary confinement if tests positive: athletes are subject to many restrictions anyway if they come to compete in China.

However, there will be no “problem” for China to apply today to organize future sporting events “when the epidemic is under control,” a Chinese expert estimates.

“It is very good that the government strictly controls the outbreak. Fearing possible retaliation if foreign countries do not understand this, it is very good,” he told the anonymous AFP.

” There is no need “

But for Mark Dreyer, this lack of vision troubles international sports organizations.

“At some point, they’ll say, ‘Sorry, but you can’t keep postponing events, because COVID-19 is not a valid reason.'”

But Du Lian, an influential sports blogger, told AFP that the idea of ​​the sports movement suddenly turning away from the huge and attractive Chinese market “is not very realistic”.

“This market is still very big. The sports sector (…) is showing significant growth.”

However, politics, which is regularly involved in sports affairs, can be a hindrance.

The WTA suspended its tournaments in China at the end of 2021 after former player Peng Shuai accused a former senior Chinese official, with whom she had a romantic relationship, of forcing her to have sex.

The programming of matches for the NBA basketball tournament, which is very popular in China, has been canceled by public television since a senior official in the franchise tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters in 2019.

“Increasingly, some consider China not worth going through so much trouble,” said Mark Dreyer.

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