Feb 19, 2022 - Sports

The Winter Olympics' COVID strategy worked pretty well

Healthcare workers are seen during women's 3000m speed skating race during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the National Speed Skating Oval
Healthcare workers are seen during women's 3000m speed skating race during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Daily testing, a barricade between the Olympic village and surrounding Beijing and strict rules prohibiting entry and exit from the "closed loop" have defined the Winter Olympics as officials tried to keep COVID out at all costs.

By the numbers: As of Saturday, 436 athletes, coaches and stakeholders had tested positive for COVID-19 out of 1.7 million tests conducted since Jan. 23, according to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games.

  • 184 athletes and team officials have tested positive since Jan. 23, including U.S. bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor and U.S. figure skater Vincent Zhou.
  • At least six members of Russia's women's ice hockey team tested positive in one of the largest team outbreaks, leading teams squaring off against the Russians to wear masks on the ice.
  • Cases in the bubble have been in the single digits for five straight days and new cases, most of which had been found at the Beijing airport, largely dropped off as the Games went on, per the committee.
  • Organizers reported zero cases inside the closed loop two straight days during the final week of the Olympics and just one case was reported on Friday.

The big picture: Beijing's data is relatively on par with COVID cases reported during the Summer Olympics in Japan, where more than 430 people tested positive, including 32 athletes.

  • But COVID cases at the Winter Olympics have stayed relatively contained to the bubble, while cases outside the Games in Tokyo skyrocketed.

Between the lines: While officials tout the Games as a "great achievement," the strict protocols were not without mental hurdles for the athletes competing.

  • "My stomach hurts, I’m very pale and I have huge black circles around my eyes," Russian biathlete Valeria Vasnetsova wrote on Instagram from a quarantine hotel after testing positive.
  • "I want all this to end. I cry every day. I’m very tired."

The bottom line: The Games have not been completely devoid of COVID as officials had hoped, but the fact that cases dwindled as the Olympics went on is a sign that the "closed loop" largely worked.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with COVID-19 data from Saturday.

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