Daily Mirror

Hazmat suits, agonising nasal swabs that draw blood & deserted streets. Welcome to Beijing 2022



BY in Beijing, on what awaits those arriving at the Winter Olympics


THEY greet you off the plane in full hazmat suits and shove a swab so far up your nose it is not unusual to draw blood.

Then they bus you to a downtown hotel where you await your Covid results, fearing a positive test means being carted off to a Chinese isolation facility.

The Olympics have never been for the faint-hearted but these Winter Games are taking it to a whole new level – and we haven’t even started yet.

It begins long before you fly to

Beijing, with organisers requiring 14 days of Covid testing and temperatur­e checks to be logged on their official app. In the 96 hours before take-off there are more PCR tests on two different days with a provider specially sanctioned by the Chinese.

Fail any of these – at a time when the UK is still experienci­ng tens of thousands of new daily infections – and your Olympics are over before they begin.

Making it through unscathed to the day of travel guarantees nothing. Then your applicatio­n is assessed and a decision made on whether to issue the two quick response codes required to access the Olympics’ closed loop.

Clear blue skies greeted our arrival. There was a chill in the air, next to nobody out on the streets.

Inside the terminal, the French team traipsed off our flight from Paris looking a little anxious.

Not just because they had witnessed Britain’s former Olympic ice skating champion Robin Cousins having a swab thrust so far up his nostril it actually disappeare­d from view.

But because of the realisatio­n that quarantine after a positive case in China is not the five days it is now at home – but 21.

One traveller complained that the testing process was so ghastly a couple of his colleagues had nose bleeds. “It felt like they tried to take out the brain!” he said.

Even for those testing negative there is no easing off. Daily tests continue for three weeks.

There are warnings of cyber attacks which led British Olympic chiefs to offer all their athletes temporary burner phones.

There will be no crowds and temperatur­es are pushing minus 20 degrees on the mountain in Zhangjiako­u, where skier Dave Ryding and snowboarde­r Charlotte Bankes offer Team GB strong medal chances.

Yet this most challengin­g of Games is not without warmth. As we passed through Immigratio­n, a woman’s voice could be heard from behind goggles and a mask.

“Welcome to our country,” she said. “A happy Chinese New Year.”

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