Less than three months after Beijing hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Olympic Council of Asia said Friday that this year's Asian Games are being postponed because of concerns over the spreading omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country.
The OCA said it had not picked new dates but said they would be announced “in the near future” after talks with local organizers and he Chinese Olympic Committee.
The OCA statement said local organizers were “very well prepared to deliver the games on time despite the global challenges. However, the decision was taken by all the stakeholders after carefully considering the pandemic situation and the size of the games.”
China's state-run television also reported the postponement in a brief statement, but did not specify anything about rescheduling.
The Asian Games were to take place Sept. 10-25 in the eastern city of Hangzhou and would involve more than 11,000 athletes — more than the typical Summer Olympics. The last edition was in 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The World University Games, another major multi-sport event, could also be postponed. They were scheduled for last year but were postponed until 2022. They were to take place this year on June 26-July 7 in the western city of Chengdu. About 6,000 athletes were believed to be involved.
The Switzerland-based FISU, the International University Sports Federation, which runs the University Games, was expected to issue a statement later on Friday.
Both events were expected to take place using the “closed-loop” system that was in place for the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics. It kept athletes and media isolated from the general population of Beijing and required daily tests and frequent temperature checks for everyone involved.
The spread of the omicron variant and lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing seems to have made holding both events impossible, even though just a few weeks ago organizers said both events would go ahead.
The OCA also announced that the Asian Youth Games, which were scheduled for Dec. 20-28 in Shantou, China, would be canceled. The youth games, which had already been postponed once, will next be held in 2025 at Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
China is sticking to a strict “zero-COVID” policy even as many other countries are easing restrictions and seeing if they can live with the virus. Much of Shanghai — a finance, manufacturing and shipping hub — has been locked down, disrupting people’s lives and dealing a blow to the economy.
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Stephen Wade, The Associated Press