Covid rules for Beijing Olympics force injured athlete to return home on cargo plane


A Polish luge athlete who was injured during training at the Winter Olympics near Beijing left China on a cargo plane this week after coronavirus restrictions prevented him from taking a commercial flight, according to the head of the Polish luge association.

The incident is testament to the type of complications that could arise during next year’s Winter Games, which are expected to begin on February 4 under strict health protocols. For training and other events leading up to the Games, athletes and team officials are not allowed to move around freely until they’ve spent 21 days in a bubble-like training and competition area.

Luger Mateusz Sochowicz, 25, hit a barrier and broke his leg on November 8 by training on the track that will be used during the Winter Games. He was hospitalized near Beijing, and the International Luge Federation said it and the local track operator were introducing additional security measures for the Games after the accident.

But when organizers attempted to organize Mr Sochowicz’s return to Poland on a commercial flight, they were told Covid regulations prevented him from doing so for another two weeks, according to Janusz Tatera, the head of the Polish Luge Federation.

Instead, Sochowicz traveled on an Air China cargo plane from Beijing to Milan on Monday, before taking another flight to Warsaw, Tatera said in a telephone interview.

The interior of the cargo plane resembled that of an airliner, Tatera said, adding that Sochowicz described his trip from Beijing as “very comfortable”.

Mr Sochowicz remains optimistic, Mr Tatera said, that he will compete in Beijing 2022 after recovering from his injury.

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