Do All Winter Olympic Athletes Need to be Vaccinated?

The 2022 Winter Olympics is underway in Beijing despite the looming threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of athletes, coaches and officials have traveled to China to compete, but some people have had to drop out of the games after catching coronavirus prior to the competition. The IOC and the event organizers in China set up multiple policies to ensure participants remained safe and the Olympics went ahead uninterrupted.

While there were many protocols put in place, that did not include mandatory vaccines for athletes.

Do all athletes need to be vaccinated?

No. Athletes could arrive in China and still compete in the Winter Olympic Games without being fully vaccinated, but there were benefits to arriving in the country if they were.

The International Olympic Committee announced biosecurity protocols for the Olympics in September 2021. All athletes are required to remain within the bio-secure bubble, ie. their respective Olympic villages, for the duration of the their participation in the games. They receive daily COVID-19 testing, and are only allowed to travel to and from Games-related venues.

Athletes who are not fully-vaccinated had to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival, whereas those who were vaccinated (or medically exempt) did not have to.

The IOC announced that all vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization or approved by their country of origin will be accepted.

While the IOC and China did not require the athletes to be fully-vaccinated, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) made it mandatory for all of Team USA's athletes to be vaccinated in order to travel to Beijing. The USOPC did mention that athletes and staff have the opportunity to obtain a medical or religious exemption to the mandate though.

The COVID-19 bubble

There is an Olympic and Paralympic bubble in place for the athletes, participants and staff involved in the 2022 Winter Games. Everyone undergoes daily testing to ensure there is no outbreak of COVID-19 within the bubble.

The Olympic Games officially take place between February 4 until February 20, but the bubble was put in place on January 23 and will last until the day that the Winter Paralympics finishes on March 13, 2022.

Spectators will be full of locals exclusively as a ban was put on international travellers coming to watch the shows. Tickets are not available to the public as spectators instead needed to be invited, with invitations going out to school children, local residents and "winter sports fans" according to the games' organizers.

The Winter Olympic Games will broadcast across NBC until the closing ceremony on Sunday, February 20, 2022.

2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
Sara Takanashi of Team Japan walks onto the Ski Jumping track wearing a mask. The right features an image from the 2022 Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Lars Baron / Maddie Meyer/Getty Images