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Some lucky, local Chinese fans made it into the stands for the 2022 Winter Olympics

Spectators look on during the Men Single Skating Short Program on day four of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 8, 2022.
David Ramos
Getty Images
Spectators look on during the Men Single Skating Short Program on day four of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 8, 2022.

BEIJING — Olympic organizers have opened their closed-loop Winter Games just enough to allow specially chosen local Chinese residents in to watch some events. Now that Games officials believe COVID-19 is properly contained within the bubble, they may add more.

"In the next step, we will bring in more spectators based on demand, because the current COVID-19 situation within the 'closed loop' is under control," Huang Chun, the director of Beijing organizers' pandemic prevention and control office.

The committee reported zero COVID-19 cases among airport arrivals and six new positive cases from people within the closed-loop on Monday — the lowest tally in two weeks.

Groups of mainland Chinese have popped up in Olympic venues at Beijing and its two neighboring mountain locations, Yanqing and Chongli. The cheers of the fans, in some cases dozens and in others more than 100, can often be heard echoing in near-empty stadiums and venues.

Thousands were allowed to attend the opening ceremony on Friday in Beijing.

Organizers canceled all ticket sales for in-person viewing of the Games due to the rise of the highly contagious omicron variant.

Getting a ticket at the venue is based on a voluntary application process, Yan Jiarong, the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

It's unclear who exactly these spectators are. When pressed by reporters on details of who or where these fans come from and why their particular applications were approved, Yan and International Olympic Committee officials didn't directly respond during a news conference.

Yan said organizers "overcame a lot of difficulties to allow spectators on-site."

The fans must follow a series of coronavirus countermeasures before, during and after their attendance. That includes getting tested twice before entering the Olympics bubble and undergoing "health monitoring" for a week after. They are allowed to leave their homes, go to work and attend the Games with no required quarantine.

This is all despite China's tightly controlled bubble established for athletes, team personnel and media at the Olympics. China is locked off to visitors and workers at the Games, who are not allowed to leave the closed-loop "bubble."

Spectators are kept separate from athletes and other personnel and must enter and exit through specially designated doors. They are also seated in specific areas of the venue.

Olympics officials believe this system maintains the integrity of the quarantine for everyone else in attendance.

Brian McCloskey, chairman of the Beijing 2022 medical expert panel, said this setup is "creating a minimum risk while creating the best possible environment."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz
Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.