The Olympic flame has been extinguished in Beijing, marking the end of the most locked-down games in history. It was the second pandemic Olympics in the more than two years since the coronavirus first emerged in China. The movements of athletes, media and workers were heavily restricted and everyone wore masks and took daily COVID tests. There were only 463 positive COVID tests reported among thousands of people who came to Beijing for the Games.
Internationally, many denounced the IOC for holding the Olympics in concert with a Chinese government accused of human rights violations. Several Western governments boycotted by not sending any official delegations, though they sent athletes. China denied such allegations, as it typically does. Indian diplomats skipped the closing ceremony in response to China's decision to field a People's Liberation Army soldier involved in the June 2020 Galwan clashes as the torchbearer for the Winter Olympics.
Attention now turns to 2024 in Paris, where officials hope for a COVID-free and scandal-free Summer Games. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach officially closed the Beijing Olympics at the Bird's Nest stadium. Bach praised China and thanked the people of the country for staging the Games in a safe way. It was the most locked-down Olympics ever, with participants restricted to a COVID-safe bubble where they took daily tests, wore masks and observed strict protocols.
He also thanked the volunteers who helped make sure the Games ran smoothly. He said it "breaks our hearts" that some athletes could not attend because of the pandemic, but said they still belong to the Olympic community. The president of the International Olympic Committee and the mayor of Beijing handed over the Olympic flag to the mayors of Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy, which will host the 2026 Winter Games. This is the first time two cities have officially hosted the Olympics together.
Cortina hosted the games in 1956. This will be the third Winter Games in Italy – Turin hosted in 2006. After three straight Olympics held in Asia – Pyeongchang, Tokyo and now Beijing – the Games head to the West for the foreseeable future, with no chance of returning until at least 2030. The next Olympics will be the Summer Games in Paris in 2024.