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Olympic athletes say China quarantining them in poor conditions, barely feeding them

Beijing 2022 - Handover Ceremony of the Olympic Flame. (Milos Bicanski/IOC/Released)
February 07, 2022

International athletes and coaches at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China have begun raising concerns about the lack of food, especially for those being kept in so-called quarantine hotels after testing positive for COVID-19.

Russian biathlon competitor Valeria Vasnetsova was among the first to raise her concerns about the conditions at the Beijing winter games. In a Thursday Instagram post, she shared photos of a small portion of plain pasta, potatoes and charred meat on a bone. She said, that had been her meal for “breakfast, lunch and dinner for 5 days already.”

“My stomach hurts, I’m very pale and I have huge black circles around my eyes,” Vasnetsova said, according to the Associated Press. “I want all this to end. I cry every day. I’m very tired.”

She said it was “impossible” to eat most of the food she had been given, “but today I ate all the fat they serve instead of meat because I was very hungry.”

In a tearful Instagram post, Belgian skeleton racer Kim Meylemans shared her frustration with thinking she had been released from her quarantine hotel, only to be taken to a different quarantine facility.

The New York Post reported German Alpine skiing coach Christian Schwaiger also criticized the limited catering for high-performing athletes.

“The catering is extremely questionable because really it’s not catering at all,” Schwaiger said, adding that there were no hot meals.

“There are crisps, some nuts and chocolate, and nothing else,” Schwaiger continued. “This shows a lack of focus on high-performance sport.”

Dirk Schimmelpfennig, the head of the German Olympic delegation, also reportedly criticized the living conditions as “unreasonable” after three-time Nordic Combined gold medalist Eric Frenzel tested positive for COVID-19 and was ordered into a quarantine room.

Finnish hockey coach Jukka Jalonen also raised concerns about officials keeping player Marko Anttila in isolation longer than necessary.

“Marko has been with our team for about a week before we came here and he tested negative,” Jalonen said. “He was with the players and with the coaching staff that week and nobody got any infection from him or from anybody else. We know that he’s fully healthy and ready to go and that’s why we think that China, for some reason, they won’t respect his human rights and that’s not a great situation.”

Responding to a question about Anttila on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao said, “I can tell you that China is committed to hosting a streamlined, safe and splendid Winter Olympics. To this end, the [Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games] has put in place necessary COVID-19 protocols based on the Playbooks for those involved in the Games. The purpose is to effectively safeguard the health of all those involved in the Games and the people of the host cities, to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible, and ensure the safe and smooth running of the Games as scheduled.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also reportedly responded to the complaints about the conditions at the Beijing Games.

“We are aware of the complaints raised by some athletes, particularly with regard to food temperature, variety and portion size,” the IOC said, according to the New York Post. “The issues are currently being addressed together with Beijing 2022 and the respective management of the facilities concerned.”

“We feel for every athlete who cannot compete because of a Covid-19 infection,” the IOC added. “The protocols have been put in place to ensure safe Olympic Games for everyone. All the cases are managed in full accordance with the rules stated in the Playbooks and in the adjustments which were made to the protocols.”