Report: COC president David Shoemaker expresses concern about Beijing Olympics

The emblem for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games is shown after being unveiled at a ceremony at the National Aquatics Center. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

The president and CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee says his organization continues to prepare to send a team to the Beijing Games, but admits there is concern about the COVID-19 situation.

“We’re worried,” Shoemaker told CBC Olympics host Scott Russell.

“At the same time, we’re learning as we learned from the Tokyo 2020 experience and heeding every bit of guidance we can from our chief medical officer and his network of medical experts. We’re confident that these Games can still be scheduled safely. But we’re taking it day-by-day.”

While the NHL has pulled out of the Olympics, which start Feb. 4, because of disruptions to its regular-season schedule, the Beijing Games remain slated to go ahead as planned.

“We have yet to have a conversation with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) about postponement but we’re having conversations on a very frequent basis with the participating winter sport nations and it may well come up.”

The Omicron variant has caused a worldwide surge in COVID-19 — with the Canadian bobsled team and the Canadian women’s hockey team among athletes from this country to experience recent outbreaks.

There also are qualification concerns — for example, the Canadian mixed doubles curling Olympic qualifier was cancelled earlier this week in Portage la Prairie, Man.

China also could force any athletes who test positive there to isolate for three to five weeks.

Shoemaker thinks the biggest challenge will be keeping Canadian athletes virus-free before going to Beijing.

“Medical experts agree, and the consensus point of view is that it may well be that the safest place from Omicron in February will be the Olympic bubble in Beijing,” he said.

“The real challenge for us over the next 30 days is how do we make sure that Canadian participants can get to Beijing without contracting the virus and therefore become able to test negative to get into that scenario.”

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