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Will the Beijing Olympics have fans?

The largest sporting event on ice comes to China. In the middle of a pandemic, will the fans be allowed to watch their favorite athletes compete in person?

Olympic Athletes from Russia fans cheer during the Men’s Gold Medal Game against Germany on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 25, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

While you’ll see bodies in the stands at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, don’t expect the flag-waving citizens from across the world to be in attendance at events.

On January 17th the Beijing Organizing Committee, mostly a state-controlled entity in China, announced that tickets wouldn’t be available for spectators from outside the country.

“Given the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, it has been decided that tickets should not be sold anymore but be part of an adapted programme that will invite groups of spectators to be present on site during the Games. The organisers expect that these spectators will strictly abide by the COVID-19 countermeasures before, during and after each event so as to help create an absolutely safe environment for the athletes.”

“One of the principles was that no tickets would be sold to spectators from outside China’s mainland, and that tickets would be sold exclusively to spectators residing in China’s mainland who meet the requirements of COVID-19 countermeasures.”

So if you were looking to fly to Beijing at the last minute for the gold medal hockey game, don’t bother. You’re not getting in, and neither are the family and friends of athletes who won’t be able to join their loved ones in person for the biggest moment of their athletic lives.

Whether it’s ok to allow athletes to be exposed to the general public outside of the Olympic Village, but to also not allow friends or family to quarantine in-country to attend, is certainly a debatable decision. But it’s a bit far down the list of priorities when it comes to these Games, which are already the subject of a diplomatic boycott by countries across the globe.

While the competitions themselves should be terrific theater, everything else about Beijing 2022 will be surrounded by controversy. We’ll see how Americans and the citizens of other nations across the globe react to what happens on and away from the snow and ice.