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Colin Michael Hall:Epidemic prevention and control will be the biggest challenge

Colin Michael Hall, Professor at the University of Canterbury

In this issue, the Centre has invited Professor Colin Michael Hall for an exclusive interview. He is a professor at the University of Canterbury. His research interests focus on climate change, sustainable development and tourism management. His recent research results include "Passenger safety behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic: Impact of intervention, resilience and sustainable Development Goals" and "The Mediating role of tourist satisfaction in the relationship between memorable travel experience and behavioral intention in the context of heritage tourism".

Recently, as the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics draws near, how China will prevent the epidemic has become the focus of the international community. It will be a tough test for organisers to demonstrate the appeal of sporting events while ensuring the safety of tens of thousands of athletes, coaches and media. What measures should China take to ensure epidemic prevention and safety during the Winter Olympics? And how to manage the influx of foreign athletes effectively?

In this regard, the Center conducted a special interview with Professor Colin Michael Hall, hoping to get his views on the impact of COVID-19 on the Beijing Winter Olympics and his insights on the role of human factors in global public health security.

Epidemic prevention and control will be the biggest challenge for the Beijing Winter Olympics

1.With the 2022 beijing olympic winter games is approaching, a large number of foreign athletes and their accompanying teams will arrive in beijing, which will increase population mobility to a certain extent. In this case, how do you think the 2022 winter olympic games will be affected?

The games will obviously be affected in terms of the experience it provides and restrictions on mobility will also obviously further restrict any economic benefits that the winter games may otherwise bring. This includes not just during the time that the games are going on but in the longer term as well because, clearly, the potential for the generation of positive images will be affected by restrictions on mobility. This is because reductions in mobility will also reduce contact with the locations that people would otherwise visit and also obviously reduce contact with the local population as well.

2. What anthropic factors do you think will directly or indirectly affect public health safety in this winter olympic games?

Obviously restricting contact is the 'standard' approach to reduce risk of transmission and is the one that the games organisers have focussed on, together with vaccination and use of non-pharmaceutical approaches, such as mask wearing. But people are all to human so you need both athletes, teams, volunteers, organisers and the general public to comply with public health measures.

3. What measures do you think should be taken to solve the problems mentioned above?

The winter games organisers will need to have a clear strategy in place with respect to ensuring that athletes and their teams are well briefed in terms of biosecurity protocols as well as being fully vaccinated prior to their arrival in beijing.

In terms of when athletes and teams are actually in beijing and there three clusters of sports stadia there will need to be very clear guidelines and appropriate enforcement regarding where visitors can and cannot go and how they should behave in terms of reducing covid-19 transmission risks. This will be the greatest challenge as traditionally the olympics are not just a sporting event, which is what the wider world tends to see, but is also a cultural celebration and event as well that encourages inter-cultural understanding and reduces xenophobia. Therefore, you would normally see the teams being encouraged to move about the city and the host country with teams usually having that expectation as well. This has long been a part of the olympic and paralympic events.

Obviously, these are not normal times. The organising committee has stated that athletes and teams must stay within a "closed loop" to prevent disease transmission. However, this will need to be delicately managed and well communicated. Rather than just relying on punishment, positive encouragement to behave appropriately also needs to be undertaken, especially as the opportunity to participate in an olympics or paralympics in beijing would normally be regarded as a high-point in an athlete or team member's life. To do this effectively means that communication needs to be undertaken not just how it would be to a chinese audience but needs to be done in the language and cultural context of the participant. That means, for example, that just conveying information to team managers in a 'command-and-control' type fashion is insufficient if you want international visitors to behave in particular ways. Information needs to be specifically focused and conveyed in a consistent fashion by multiple channels, including the official games website which, at the time of writing this with a hundred days to go, is pretty much covid-19 information free.If you want people to behave in an appropriate fashion just saying no and what you are not allowed to do usually is not enough. Organisers also need to convey to all people what they can do and where they can go. I would also be looking to manage the various 'bubbles' and 'loops' of people in a manner that actually provided safe visitation to areas once participation in events were over, especially as a reward for behaviour early in the event and being covid free and fully vaccinated . Such measures could work well before the end of visits and return home. They would also be in keeping with reducing the xenophobia that can occur by keeping people separate and would be in the spirit of the games. However, that requires a much more sophisticated and open approach to managing covid-19 than what currently seems to be the place.

Interviewer: Zhang Jiabao

Interview date: October 29, 2021



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