Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Virgin Media venue in Shenzhen used as the Olympic Aqua Blue swimming venue will be elevated to a stadium
Chinese officials say they will ease restrictions on the accommodation of foreign competitors at the Beijing Games in 2022, as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics.
The tough guidelines have been criticised as restricting access to and from social media, allowing only approved photos to be posted online and preventing games officials and officials’ families from attending the event.
However, the organisers told the BBC the restrictions were needed for “national security reasons”.
As is the case with the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the Paralympics in 2022 will also be held in the same city, in a venue to be awarded by the International Paralympic Committee.
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Authorities in Beijing said there were many places where people could still travel to and from the Olympic Stadium, despite restrictions of visitors to only those under the age of 35, foreigners over the age of 55, and school children.
But athletes staying at the central accommodation zone, a luxury-style complex designed to include residences, meeting and seminar rooms, indoor swimming and skating pools, will be restricted to certain areas.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A police checkpoint near Beijing’s Dongsheng rail station to restrict access by foreigners.
Beijing’s deputy municipal police chief at the time of the 2008 games, Zheng Li, said it was “not right” to limit access to that particular area, and questioned the need for the restrictions at all.
The key difference is that, unlike then, the authorities in 2022 are handing out all the specific restrictions to the entire city, it has been reported.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Authorities said they were restricting the opening and closing times for security checks, and restricted access in sensitive places, such as the Henan train station.
Despite that, one blogger said those restrictions would make “safety issues for spectators [worse], and won’t just just leave our citizens better protected”.
‘Even more relaxed’
VIPs and sporting dignitaries will still be permitted to work and travel widely around the city, it has been reported.
Meeting delegates of international sporting federations and officials in the city itself will not be restricted, despite leading light of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach opposing China’s tight control, according to an interview with the Guardian.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption There will be two security checks on the way into the Olympic venue, it was reported.
Mr Bach told the Guardian that China had “stopped at nothing” to host the Olympics in 2008.
“It’s a huge success,” he said, “but now we think it’s the time for the Chinese authorities to show people that the ideal should exist.”
The Guardian story said that, “in an unusual shift” he was urging Chinese authorities “to go even further and relax restrictions on the movement of delegates in general”.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A pub in the Olympic village was closed and renamed at the end of the Games. Many involved said it was due to the Chinese authorities’ tight controls.
But Mr Chang Weidong, deputy director of the Beijing Organising Committee for the XXIX Olympiad, said the changes were only making a difference to athletes, who were “familiar with the restrictions”.
“In an Olympic Games, the most important restriction is the restriction on the entry and the departure of foreign athletes,” he said.
“We have informed the foreigners about these rules and had all the pros [of media freedom] and cons lined up beforehand.”
Beijing has repeatedly said the restrictions are needed as it is a major city and had to “protect national security”.
“Security is our government’s biggest concern, as it is for athletes,” Mr Chang said.
“Beijing is a high-security city.”