‘It’s a big joke’: Winter Olympians complain about conditions in Beijing

Discontent is rising at the Winter Olympics in Beijing amid a series of complaints from athletes surrounding conditions at the Games, with one speed skater from Poland hitting out at “joke” Covid-19 guidelines while the Swedish biathlon team criticised having to compete in the freezing temperatures.

The Winter Olympics began in Beijing with the opening ceremony on Friday and with promises from event organisers to deliver a “streamlined, safe and most splendid” Games, but several athletes have since taken to social media to express their anguish at what has been provided for them.

While a Russian biathlon athlete took to Twitter to post what she claimed to be the same “breakfast, lunch and dinner” for five days, there were other complaints over the uncertainty of the Covid-19 isolation rules that left Polish speed skater Natalia Maliszewska “crying until she had no more tears”.

Maliszewska was forced to miss one of her heats for the 500m short track speed skating this past weekend after testing positive for Covid, but there was further stress caused after she tested negative and was released, only for officials to change their minds.

“People got me out of my room at 3am. This night was a horror, I slept in my clothes in my bed because I was afraid that at any moment someone would take me back to isolation,” Maliszewska said. “Then a message that unfortunately they were mistaken, that I am a threat, and should not have been released from isolation.

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“I have to get back to the Olympic Village as soon as possible. I can’t understand this anymore. I no longer believe in any tests, any Olympics. To me this is a big joke, I hope whoever is managing this has a lot of fun. My heart and my mind can’t take this anymore.”

There has also been an outpouring of sympathy for Belgian skeleton racer Kim Meylemans after she described her experience of spending seven days in Covid isolation after testing positive upon arrival, as well as confusion following the decision to allow an Australian curling player to continue competing despite recording a positive test.

In a statement, the IOC said: “We feel for every athlete who cannot compete because of a Covid-19 infection. The protocols have been put in place to ensure safe Olympic Games for everyone.”

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