Samaranch confident Beijing 2022 will deliver on unrestricted internet access promise

The internet ban in China was lifted during the Beijing 2008 Olympics and Paralympics but some restrictions remained in place ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president Juan Antonio Samaranch insists Beijing 2022 will deliver on their word by offering unrestricted internet access for spectators and visitors to the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Officials made the promise during the bidding process for the 2022 event, with many “politically sensitive” websites, including Facebook, Twitter and Google, banned in mainland China.

This has been the case since 2009 as part of a wider censorship of information available on the internet, though there are ways to circumnavigate the ban.

Full access was available during an IOC Evaluation Commission visit in March of last year, but only in certain locations and for selected people.

The ban was also lifted during both the Beijing 2008 Olympics and Paralympics and the Nanjing 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games, in venues and Games-areas only.

Even then, however, some restrictions remained in place as there were reports of journalists being blocked from a range of different sites at the summer Games eight years ago.

Beijing 2022 have claimed all sites will be on offer across all venues during the Winter Games, including at the Zhangjiakou venue hub, located around 190km from the Chinese capital.

Zhang Jiandong, executive vice-president of the Organising Committee, went as far as saying there would be “comprehensively open access to the internet for all customers, including at the competition venues, where athletes stay, and other areas”.

He stopped short of revealing exactly how this would be carried out, however.

Samaranch, elected as an IOC vice-president during the Session prior to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, remains fully confident all attendees at Beijing 2022 will be able to access the internet freely.

He stressed that it was “guaranteed in the bid” during the third and final day of the first IOC Coordination Commission visit here.

“All the experience that we’ve had with Beijing is that they’ve always delivered on their word,” said Samaranch.

“We are confident that will be the case.”

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