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The Logistical Nightmare of Getting Athletes to the Olympics

  • U.S., European nations arranging special flights to Beijing
  • Arrangements with airlines reflect lack of commercial service
A billboard promoting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, at Beijing’s Capital International Airport on Jan. 21.
A billboard promoting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, at Beijing’s Capital International Airport on Jan. 21.Photographer: Jade Gao/AFP/Getty Images

Flying chartered is a luxury often reserved for rock stars and royalty. But China’s approach to Covid, with officials determined to stamp out the virus, means that most of the 3,000 or so skiers, snowboarders, skaters and bobsleigh riders descending on Beijing for the Winter Olympics next month will be arriving on specially arranged flights.

According to version two of the Beijing 2022 playbook -- a 70-page guide for athletes and team officials to a “safe and successful Games” -- air travel to China’s capital will be possible via charter, temporary and commercial flights. With the playbook also mandating that departures from Beijing be on temporary and charter flights only, and most commercial flights suspended anyway due to the pandemic, chartered is proving a popular option.