Omicron complicates Winter Olympics

National

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With one month until the start of the Winter Olympics, cases of COVID-19 continue to rise worldwide as the omicron variant spreads, but deaths are on a downward trend according to data from Worldometer.

Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee, told USA Today Monday there’s “no indication” the Olympics would be canceled but the possibility of doing so remains.

US Speedskating announced this week it will bar all spectators from watching its trials Jan. 5-9 as a COVID-19 precaution.

“It’s vital that we continue to keep a strong focus on the health and welfare of our athletes,” U.S. Speedskating Executive Director Ted Morris said. “Our ability to create a competition bubble provides us with the best situation to protect our athletes while providing them with the opportunity to qualify for the Beijing team at the Olympic Trials. We appreciate the understanding of parents, fans and media so that we can provide the best environment possible for our athletes.”

The Tokyo Olympics clamped down on fans during the Games last year, only allowing people from the host country to attend amid strict COVID-19 safety precautions. And athletes, coaches and staff effectively lived and competed in a “bubble,” where they were only allowed in certain areas of the Olympic Village and competition spaces.

COVID-19 has also affected athletes during their preparations for the Games. Two-time gold medal skier Mikaela Shiffrin tested positive nine days ago and was cleared this week to compete in the women’s World Cup in Croatia, according to the Associated Press. But, her teammate Nina O’Brien has now tested positive and must sit out the slalom on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Men’s hockey team announced its new head coach in late December. David Quinn, who had earlier been tapped as an assistant coach and has worked with the New York Rangers, will now step up after the National Hockey League announced it will not send players or coaches to the Games, according to the Associated Press, concerned that a surge in COVID-19 cases could disrupt its season. The AP reports the decision in mid-December was an abrupt about-face from an earlier deal between the NHL, union, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation that would let those players participate. NHL players also did not participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

On the women’s side of the sport, USA Hockey announced its final roster on the first of the year. It includes eight first-time Olympians and 15 who have previously competed at the Games, according to a release on its website. It said Team USA has medaled in every Games since women’s hockey was added in 1998.

Busy day Feb. 13

The Winter Olympics begin the first week in February, and this year coincide with another huge televised event: the Super Bowl. We want to know — which one will you be watching? Vote in our Twitter poll below:

WOOD-TV Sports Director Jack Doles joins us to discuss that big day, plus his take on the latest on the Olympics at 9 a.m. CT.

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