Games rehearsals in full swing

2021-02-19 12:07:23

Preparations for testing program begin on slopes of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou    Athletes train at a ski field during a snowfall in Chongli district of Zhangjiakou city, North China's Hebei province, Feb 14, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua] A series of rehearsals for the Winter Olympics' adapted sports testing program kicked off this week as Beijing 2022 organizers refuse to let the COVID-19 pandemic blow their preparations off track. Comprised of unofficial competitions, infrastructure tests and staff drills, the rehearsals at multiple venues will attempt to fine-tune operational procedures and coronavirus protocols to Games-time standards. Refreshed after the Spring Festival holiday, Beijing 2022 organizers and stakeholders have been mobilized since Tuesday to conduct rehearsals at six competition venues in northwest Beijing's Yanqing district and co-host Zhangjiakou, Hebei province. With the pandemic still playing havoc with the global sporting calendar, this month's snow sports rehearsals in the two mountain areas will only involve Chinese athletes and domestic technical officials-although international monitors will be present. The same will apply to April's ice sports rehearsals in downtown Beijing. The 2022 organizing committee has agreed a provisional plan with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and winter sports international federations to stage 10 official test events involving foreign athletes, technical delegates and broadcasters from October to December. However, this is subject to change depending on the pandemic situation. Three weeks of open training for bobsled, luge and skeleton have also been planned for international teams to get acclimated to the competition track in Yanqing. This "adapted sports testing program", as the IOC calls it, has replaced the original plan, which was due to begin last February until the pandemic forced a rethink. Beijing 2022 organizers, however, are determined not to let the COVID-19 crisis stop them maintaining their exemplary standards. "Our goal is to test whatever we can at the moment and to run the test as close to the Games-time levels as possible," Yao Hui, venue management director of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee, told China Central Television on Wednesday. "The rehearsals matter a lot for us to assess the operation of venue facilities, the teamwork of organizational staff, transport and power infrastructures, medical services and epidemic-control measures." With less than 12 months before the Games open on Feb 4 next year, Yao stressed that the clock is ticking for organizers to identify problems and develop countermeasures. The rescheduling of a freestyle skiing competition due to unfavorable weather conditions at Genting resort in Zhangjiakou's Chongli district on Tuesday-Day 1 of the snow sports testing-highlighted the importance of the rehearsals. The morning sessions for moguls and aerials were moved to Thursday, giving organizers an invaluable experience in reacting to meteorological changes-an essential part of mountain operations at the Winter Olympics. "The test helps us to better handle similar situations that involve multiple groups of staff across areas such as weather forecasting, competition scheduling, broadcasting and ticketing," said Wang Yanxia, a deputy director of Beijing 2022's sports department, during the CCTV program. A total of 17 such Olympic and Paralympic snow sports competitions, exclusively featuring Chinese athletes but monitored by international technical experts who have been continuously working in China throughout the pandemic, are taking place in Zhangjiakou and Yanqing through Feb 26. The arrangement for the ice-sports rehearsals in early April at competition venues in downtown Beijing, and for the international test events later in the year, have yet to be decided. Having completed all 12 competition venues across three zones, organizers are sparing no efforts along the home stretch toward the Winter Games, stressing simplicity, safety and excellence as their primary guidelines. Beijing 2022 has established an epidemic prevention and control expert group to discuss the ever-evolving pandemic situation with the IOC and relevant international federations on a weekly basis. Key elements of the discussion include tracking coronavirus protocols developed for the delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and their implications for Beijing 2022. "Having seen how China is overcoming the coronavirus crisis, we are very confident that our Chinese hosts will ensure safe and secure Olympic Games in full cooperation with the IOC," IOC president Thomas Bach said in a video message for Beijing 2022's one-year countdown ceremony on Feb 4.