Feb 2, 2022 - Sports

Belgian athlete allowed in Olympic Village after tearful appeal over COVID isolation

Belgium's Kim Meylemans reacts as she finishes the fourth run of the women's skeleton competition of the IBSF Skeleton World Championship in Altenberg, eastern Germany, on February 12, 2021

Belgium's Kim Meylemans at the IBSF Skeleton World Championship in Altenberg, Germany, on Feb. 12, 2021. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Belgian skeleton racer Kim Meylemans was moved late Wednesday Beijing time to the Olympic Village where she would be allowed to continue her COVID-19 isolation, the athlete said via Instagram Stories.

Driving the news: Earlier Wednesday, Meylemans posted a tearful video on her Instagram detailing her treatment in COVID isolation and prompting the International Olympic Committee to step in, per the New York Times.

  • Meylemans had contracted COVID-19 in early January but recovered and had received a dozen negative test results in the weeks prior to traveling to China this weekend, the Times reported.
  • But Meylemans tested positive upon her arrival in China, and she had to stay in an isolation facility. The athlete was expected to be able to leave the isolation facility and continue strict protocols in the Olympic Village after three days and multiple negative PCR tests, the South China Morning Post reported.

What they're saying: "On the way to the Village, we did not turn to the Village, but the ambulance went to another facility where I am now," Meylemans explained in the initial video.

  • “I am supposed to stay here for another seven days with two PCRs a day and no contact with anybody else," she added. "I am allowed to slide alone. We are not even sure I will ever be allowed to enter the Village.”
  • "My NOC got surprised by this decision as well," she said, referring to Belgium's National Olympic Committee.
  • "I'm not sure I can handle 14 more days and the Olympic competition while being this isolation," she concluded.

The big picture: The Beijing Games' "closed-loop system" is the strictest ever created for a global sporting event.

  • But critics say the Chinese government's protocols seem more focused on keeping COVID from escaping the loop than protecting those inside it, Axios' Tina Reed writes.

State of play: Athletes who are released from the isolation facility must subsequently follow close contact protocols, which allow them to stay in the Olympic Village but require that they stay in a single room, dine alone and be transported around alone, the IOC explained in a statement.

  • Meylemans was taken to a different facility "temporarily" because no such room was available at the Olympic Village, the IOC said.
  • "When the IOC learned about her personal situation after her arrival in the hotel, it took immediate contact with the NOC of Belgium to ensure that appropriate support is offered to her swiftly," the statement read.
  • In her Instagram Stories, Meylemans said that "at 11:35 p.m. there was a knock on my door and I was escorted to the Olympic Village."
  • "I am now in a wing that's just isolation, but at least I am back in the village."
  • Neither the IOC nor NOC immediately responded to Axios' requests for comment.

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