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Bach praises Beijing for hosting stellar sporting gala

By SUN XIAOCHEN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-02-19 07:18
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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach receives a gift from volunteers after attending a news conference at the Main Media Center for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics on Feb 18, 2022. [Photo by Hei Jianjun/for China Daily]

Former fencing champion calls closed loop 'one of safest places on planet'

Citing the safe and satisfying experiences for athletes in China, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach hailed the Beijing 2022 Winter Games as a great success, two days before the closing ceremony.

As the first Winter Olympics taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beijing 2022 Games have earned high praise from participating athletes and officials from around the world for the effective closed-loop management that keeps everyone safe, and for the cutting-edge venues that help facilitate Olympians to perform at their highest level, Bach said.

"To measure these successes there are two criteria, which depend on each other. First the athletes and second the venue and the villages," Bach said during a news conference at Beijing 2022's Main Media Center on Friday.

"Here in Beijing it is very obvious that the athletes are more than happy. They are extremely satisfied with the venues, with the villages, with the services having been offered and with the safety within the closed loop under these very difficult circumstances under the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19.

"The athletes are responding with outstanding performances and with, from my point of view, unprecedented Olympic spirit. The intensity of this Olympic experience was above and beyond what I have experienced before at other Olympic Games," he said.

With the curtain set to drop on the Games on Sunday night, some of the highlights of Beijing 2022, whether exceptional athletic breakthroughs or heartwarming stories behind the scenes, will be etched in history and long remembered by all witnesses including himself, Bach added.

The interaction between Chinese mixed double curlers Ling Zhi and Fan Suyuan and their US opponents Christopher Plys and Vicky Persinger after a game last week when they exchanged gifts to show friendship and mutual respect was among the moments in Beijing when the Olympic spirit blazed bright, added Bach.

"All these showed that the Olympic Games and the Olympic athletes are really beyond the divisive issues we are facing in the world now and the high tensions we are going through on the political side," said the former West German Olympic champion in fencing in the men's team foil at the 1976 Montreal Games.

By the end of all competitions on Friday, 97 of the total 109 gold medals up for grabs at Beijing 2022 had been awarded to athletes from 21 countries and regions, while 17 Olympic records, including two world records, had been set at the Beijing Games.

According to the Beijing 2022 organizing committee's pandemic prevention and control office, the closed-loop system adopted at the Games, where participants including athletes, officials and media members are required to move only between their training, competition and working venues and designated accommodation facilities via official transport services to separate them from the local communities, has been running very effectively.

Within the loop, where there remain about 14,000 participants despite some having already left China, the number of positive COVID-19 cases confirmed on daily basis has been dropping gradually with zero cases over the past 24 hours reported for the first time on Wednesday, according to the latest information released by the office.

"It was one of the safest places on the planet, if not the safest place, and this is a great achievement," Bach said.

Global interest in the Beijing Winter Olympics on digital and traditional media platforms, as Bach revealed on Friday, has been phenomenal.

According to the IOC, its own social media accounts on all platforms have received over 2.7 billion visits for Beijing 2022 as of Friday morning, while the Games content, including live broadcasting, highlights and interviews, have reached over 600 million people in China on TV alone.

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