Tears of Despair for Olympic Athletes Forced into Isolation Misery in Beijing

It is meant to be all about the athletes, but competitors entangled in China’s strict zero COVID policy say they are suffering an Olympics from hell.

Four official days of competition at the Beijing Winter Olympics and growing complaints about athletes being locked up in quarantine hotels infested with cockroaches, being fed and starved of information.

A Polish short-distance speed skater said she was left “crying like crazy” in the back of an ambulance in the early hours of Saturday morning after being told she had been released – only to be sent back to prison before her event began.

“I am in the ambulance. It was 3am and I was crying like crazy because I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t feel safe at all,” said Natalia Maliszewska. “I cried until I had no more tears left.”

She’s far from the only person to shed tears at Bejing’s “Crying Game”. Last week, Russian swimmer Valeria Vasnetsova complained of harsh conditions in her isolated hotel, where breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days consisted of just a tray of pasta with orange sauce. , a piece of meat and a few potatoes.

“I have stomach pain, I’m pale and I have huge dark circles around my eyes. I want all of this to end. I cry every day. I am very tired,” the Russian said in an Instagram post. Her account has been deleted.

Also in tears was Belgium’s Kim Meylemans, who tested positive on arrival in Beijing but assumed she would be allowed to join her teammates in the Olympic village after a series of negative tests followed. that’s three days.

She was also taken out of the isolation area in an ambulance, only to have the vehicle driven through the village and take her to another isolation unit. The Skeleton Racer described her challenge in a tearful Instagram post that helped convince Olympic organizers to let her into the athletes’ village, even though she remained in quarantine.

To date, there have been more than 350 positive tests among various Olympic visitors, including journalists forced to cover the sport over confusing Wi-Fi connections in hotels miles away. their isolation until they can provide two negative PCR results 24 hours apart. They include veteran Australian reporter Julian Linden, who has spent nearly a week at a remote hotel in the mountains north of Beijing, has no COVID symptoms but is waiting for the green light to start his work.

Linden described in Sydney Daily telegram how he was nearly bombed at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and nearly beaten to death in Rio in 2016, but nothing could have prepared him for Beijing 2022. “The only person I’ve ever been. saw that two Chinese medical staff visited my room every day to clean my throat. Wearing full hazmat suits and speaking no English, they didn’t speak much but were very friendly and helpful, even agreeing to my request to take a selfie. ‘”

The lockdown of journalists isn’t good news for the International Olympic Committee, but the athletes bursting into tears on their social media is a much bigger problem for those seen as guardians of sport. world sport.

Kit McConnell, the IOC’s sporting director, said today the organization is making the issue of athlete isolation a top priority and is doing its best to help individuals caught up in the issue. “Isolated athletes remain an absolute focus. There is a collective responsibility to support these athletes,” he said at a press conference. “It was not easy for anyone in that situation. We completely understand. There are still some individual circumstances that are challenging. “

Maliszewska, a Polish speed skater, says that after being released and then detained again, she no longer trusts the test regime to get it right. “I don’t believe all of those tests now,” she told Reuters. “I want explanations from people who make me feel unsafe, because now no one is saying anything. They were silent. ”

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