China stops sales of tickets to Beijing Winter Olympics due to COVID-19

Some groups of spectators will still be able to attend the Games, under strict pandemic measures.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are set to open Feb. 4.

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China will no longer sell tickets for the Beijing Winter Olympics to the general public as the Chinese capital on Saturday reported its first local case of the omicron variant of COVID-19, just weeks before the Games kick off on Feb. 4.

"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 International Olympic Committee said in a statement on Monday.

Beijing last year announced several measures aimed at keeping athletes and spectators safe, including limiting ticket sales to people residing in mainland China. More than 3,000 athletes as well as trainers and support staff are reportedly expected to attend Winter Olympics, with all participants in a "closed loop" in Beijing. Attendees entering the loop must be fully vaccinated before arriving in China -- or face quarantine -- and will be tested daily for COVID, according to the Washington Post

The Beijing 2022 organizing committee didn't immediately respond to a question on how many spectators would still be allowed to attended the Winter Games. 

The pandemic isn't the only issue facing the Winter Olympics in Beijing. US athletes competing in Beijing have reportedly been told to leave their personal phones behind amid security concerns. US officials are also staging a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics as a statement against China's human rights violations.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Games kick off on Feb. 4 and will run until Feb. 20. The Paralympic Winter Games will be held from March 4-13.