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The Games before Christmas

The coronavirus hits society hard again, upsetting Christmas for many citizens, and also threatens sport. Some competitions have already been sprinkled by outbreaks in the changing rooms of half the world and those responsible for the Winter Games are looking askance at the pandemic, since there is little more than a month left for the inauguration and danger looms over them. The measures contemplated in the last protocol -bubble format and daily tests for athletes- now seem insufficient and they are being studied to harden them to avoid a massive outbreak that prevents the appointment from being held with total normality. The Chinese authorities and the Olympic Committee (IOC) itself will study tightening the measures once Christmas passes and it is seen what the real effect of this sixth wave has been, but in the meantime it is the athletes those who take extreme care in the face of a contagion that is increasingly common among the population.

From the Spanish Winter Sports Federation (RFEDI) athletes have been asked not to lower their guard during these days in which personal contact is closer and the measures for the matches are relaxed relatives. “We are worried, of course. First, for society in general, which is suffering this sixth wave, and then also for our athletes. We continue to maintain precautions, performing our antigen tests, the PCRs that are required of us and with the bubble format between the different teams, but we have also asked them that at this time, in which we all lower our guard a bit, that they even have more caution, because any slip can be a stick at this time, “explains to ABC May Peus Spain, president of the RFEDI.

His words have penetrated the athletes who, fifty days after the start of the Beijing 2022 Games , are clear that it is not the time for celebrations. No, at least, as they expected to do a few months ago or as it would have been normal if they had not yet lived in the middle of a pandemic.

Just arrived home after starring in another great performance in the World Cup slalom held in Madonna di Campiglio -it was fifteenth for the second time this season-, Quim Salarich is clear that they will be A different Christmas marked by fear of contagion at the gates of what may be its first Games. “This time I think that, somehow, Christmas will have to be sacrificed to get to the Games well. I will spend these days as a family, but only with those closest to me. My mother, my brother, my girlfriend and my in-laws … The rest of those close to you will have to be seen this time by video call, because a positive can now leave you out of the Games “, recognizes the Catalan, one of the fashionable skiers in Spanish winter sport.

After many years of working in the shadows, away from the spotlight, these Beijing Games come to him at the best moment of his career and he does not want a slip to ruin so much training time. “We always take care of ourselves, but now more than ever. Everyone who will be around me these days has also understood how important these days are and we have managed to create a kind of bubble around me. My mother, who is a nurse, works with all the protections and hardly does social life afterwards; My girlfriend has asked to telecommute to avoid any unexpected contagion in the office and my in-laws also work from home and have not gone out to dinner for two years. Except when it is my turn to eat, I am going to wear the mask all day, although unfortunately this does not mean that I am free from contagion », points out the athlete, who with the new year will begin a tour that will take him through half of Europe to finish outlining your Olympic participation.

Before traveling to China, where the Games are scheduled to open on February 4, he will return home and there he will not have contact with anyone. Isolation that tries to emulate these days Queralt Castellet , the Spanish rider who aspires to achieve the coveted Olympic medal in her fifth participation in the Games. I'm not going home for Christmas. Maybe after the end of the year, I go back to Europe to train, but only when things are calmer ”, recognizes Castellet from the United States, where the sixth wave caught him. There he has installed his private bubble, fleeing from the social overcrowding and sacrificing Christmas to prepare as well as possible for the Games. Of course I'm being more cautious. It has been a long time since I stepped into a public gym because I know that I expose myself more there. I always look for an accommodation that has that facility, because I know that I will be alone there. Also, I try not to go to dinners in closed restaurants or to events with a lot of people. I prefer not to risk with the Games so close, although for us it is complicated, because we need a station, which is a public place, to be able to train. I try to minimize the risk, but it is always there, “he says.

Although it has not appeared publicly anywhere, winter sports bullies claim that China is willing to veto any athlete who tests positive one month before the inauguration, forcing even more care not to be left out of a race. appointment to which problems do not stop arising. If a few weeks ago it was the scandal of the disappearance of the tennis player Peng Shuai that led several countries to request a boycott against the Games, now it is the coronavirus that is once again emerging as the protagonist a month and a half after the appointment. Pandemic that spread to the world from China, where measures to stop it have always been more radical than anywhere else in the world. As evidenced by the nightmare the Spanish snowboard cross team suffered when they traveled there weeks ago to compete in a World Cup event. “Although the station is three hours from the airport, it took us almost twelve to arrive due to the controls,” explains Lucas Eguibar , one of the strongest medal options for Spain in Beijing. An arrival in China that was an adventure. In addition to the PCR at the airport, they were put on the bus without even going through the bathroom … all so that they would not come into contact with the population. An odyssey that anticipates what will be experienced during the Games. An armored event in which the athletes will be constantly under surveillance so that they do not skip the bubble in which they will live during their Olympic participation.

Resignation from the NHL

In that bubble will not be professional ice hockey players after the NHL (the league of Canada and the United States) decided not to allow their participation. “Due to the deep disruption in the regular league schedule (more than 50 games postponed so far), the Olympic participation of our players is not feasible,” explained yesterday Gary Bettman , commissioner of the NHL.

Another blow for some Games peppered by controversy and the coronavirus, to which Spanish athletes want to reach without any more surprises even if they have to sacrifice their Christmas for this. Parties almost alone to enjoy the Games and not have to regret.

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