Beijing: COVID-positive Olympians criticise conditions in quarantine hotels

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By Euronews
A worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 test at the 2022 Winter Olympics, 2 February 2022, in Beijing
A worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 test at the 2022 Winter Olympics, 2 February 2022, in Beijing   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Some Olympic athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 at the Beijing Olympics feel their quarantine conditions are making a bad situation much worse.

The quarantine hotels are increasingly the target of criticism from athletes and their teams, who are lobbying organisers for improvements.

“My stomach hurts, I'm very pale and I have huge black circles around my eyes. I want all this to end. I cry every day. I'm very tired,” Russian biathlon competitor Valeria Vasnetsova posted on Instagram from one of Beijing's so-called quarantine hotels.

Vasnetsova posted a picture Thursday of what she said was “breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days already” — a tray with food including plain pasta, an orange sauce, a piece of meat on a bone, a few potatoes and no greens.

She also claimed that the athletes were getting worse food after noticing different labels for other quarantined team members.

In another post on social media, Vasnetsova took a picture of food served to her team doctor who had also tested positive and was assigned to a room two floors below. He had fresh fruit, a salad and prawns with broccoli.

“I honestly don't understand, why is there this attitude to us, the athletes?” she wrote.

There is a lack of transparency, too, with only some virus-positive athletes forced into quarantine hotels where their teams do not have access, while teammates in similar situations are allowed to isolate themselves within the Olympic village.

The rules for athletes who test positive say those without symptoms go to a dedicated hotel for isolation. Anyone who has COVID-19 with symptoms will go to a hospital. In both cases, they’ll be unable to compete until cleared for discharge.

Teams have started going public with criticism.

After Eric Frenzel, a three-time gold medalist in Nordic combined, tested positive, German delegation head Dirk Schimmelpfennig lambasted the “unreasonable” living conditions.

Germany wants larger, more hygienic rooms, and more regular food deliveries so athletes who are eventually released are still fit to compete, Schimmelpfennig said in comments reported by the FAZ newspaper.

Belgian skeleton racer Kim Meylemans was brought back from a quarantine hotel to isolation in the athletes' village after she made a tearful post on social media. Her main gripe was the lack of information.

Two days on from her criticism, Vasnetsova is still in quarantine but things are looking up.

Russian biathlon team spokesman Sergei Averyanov posted a picture of what he said was an improved meal delivered to Vasnetsova's room including salmon, cucumbers, sausages and yoghurt.

"With food, it seems, the issue is resolved [...] yoghurt and salmon appeared for breakfast," he wrote in his Telegram channel.

A stationary bike will be delivered soon, he added. Vasnetsova “is already smiling, and that's the main thing”.

Additional sources • AP