Less than three months after Beijing hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Asian Olympic Council said Friday that this year’s Asian Games in China are being postponed due to concerns about the country’s proliferation of the COVID-19 micron variant.
The OCA said it had not chosen new dates, but said they would be announced “soon” after talks with local organizers and China’s Olympic Committee.
An OCA statement said local organizers were “very well prepared to hold the games on time, despite global challenges. However, the decision was made by all stakeholders after careful consideration of the pandemic situation and the size of the games. “
The postponement reflects the Chinese leadership’s growing concern about the rapid spread of the outbreak from Shanghai to Beijing in an important political year. The ruling Communist Party is holding a major meeting this fall and does not want any signs of instability related to the pandemic or not.
China remains with a “zero COVID-19” strategy in the form of blockades and other restrictions, despite economic costs and the fact that many other countries around the world are relaxing and trying to live with the virus.
China’s state television also reported on the postponement of the Asian Games in a brief statement, but did not specify anything about the postponement.
The Asian Games were to take place from September 10 to 25 in the eastern city of Hangzhou and will be attended by more than 11,000 athletes – more than in the typical Summer Olympics. The last edition was in 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The World University Games, another major multi-sporting event, have also been postponed, organizers said on Friday. They were supposed to take place last year, but were postponed until 2022. They were to take place this year from June 26 to July 7 in the western city of Chengdu. It is estimated that about 6,000 athletes are participating.
The Swiss-based International University Sports Federation, which hosts the games, said it would be held in 2023, but gave no date or details.
“The constant uncertainty of conditions has made a sensible choice of transfer,” FISU President Leonz Eder said in a statement.
Both events were expected to take place using a “closed loop” system that operated for the Beijing and Paralympic Games. This isolated athletes and the media from the Beijing population and required daily tests and frequent temperature checks for all participants.
The Winter Olympics were a relatively small event attended by only 2,900 athletes. There were about 700 at the Winter Paralympic Games.
The proliferation of the omicron variant in Shanghai and Beijing seems to have made it impossible to hold both events, although just a few weeks ago organizers said both events would take place. Much of Shanghai – the financial, manufacturing and shipping hub – has been closed, disrupting people’s lives and hitting the economy.
The OCA has also announced that the Asian Youth Games, which were scheduled for Dec. 20-28 in Shantou, China, will be canceled. The youth games, which have already been postponed, will be held in 2025 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan).
The tough policy of “zero COVID” was closely identified with President Xi Jinping, the leader of the ruling Communist Party, and was strongly reaffirmed at a meeting of the party’s all-powerful Standing Committee on Thursday.
“Weakening will undoubtedly lead to a massive number of infections, serious cases and deaths, which will seriously affect economic and social development, as well as people’s lives and health,” the summary of the findings at a meeting of the official Xinhua news agency said.
The meeting “stressed the importance of adhering to a dynamic zero-COVID-19 policy and resolutely combating any attempts to distort, question or reject China’s anti-COVID policy.”
On Friday, China reported 4,628 new cases of COVID-19, the vast majority of which were asymptomatic and detected in Shanghai, China’s largest city, located about 177 kilometers (110 miles) east of Hangzhou.
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