Olympics-'Closed loop' Olympians celebrate unusual Valentine's Day at Beijing Games

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  • In China's Covid-19 Olympics bubble, athletes and staff are celebrating Valentine's Day cut off from the outside world. 
  • Couples have had to find creative ways to celebrate the special day. 
  • Residents within the closed-loop have to stick to strict Covid-19 protocols. 


Valentine's Day is normally about personally delivering romantic gestures and passionate kisses but Olympians at the "closed-loop" Beijing Games have had to be creative to express their feelings of love in a restricted environment.

The thousands of athletes, staff, and media who entered the Covid-19 protected bubble for the Olympics are expected to adhere to constant mask-wearing and social distancing as they are completely cut off from the outside world.

For Austrian snowboarders 29-year-old Sabine Schoeffmann, and her partner 32-year-old Alexander Payer, the compulsory daily testing for the virus has led to their second heartbreak at the Olympics.

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After Schoeffmann missed the 2018 Pyeongchang Games due to injury, she returned a positive coronavirus test in Beijing and could not take part in her event. Payer had to spend the second Olympics in a row on his own as he competed and then went home.

"I most look forward to human touch when I get home," Schoeffmann said ahead of her Valentine's Day flight from Beijing to Milan, where Payer will pick her up after driving five hours from Austria.

Waiting for the second negative Covid-19 test to release her from the isolation hotel was "nerve-racking", she added.

"Then somebody knocked on the door and the volunteer in charge of my case stood there in a white hazmat suit and told me I should get ready, the car is coming," Schoeffmann said.

Say it with flowers 

The events on the ice at the Beijing Olympics are also positively teeming with couples.

Tim Koleto, a 30-year-old American-born Japanese ice dancer who competed at the Olympics with his 29-year-old wife Misato Komatsubara, said he bought some flowers to celebrate the holiday. "Luckily there is a florist here" in the "closed-loop", said Koleto.

31-year-old Spanish ice dancer Adrian Diaz, competing against his fiancée, 30-year-old US dancer Madison Hubbell, on Valentine's Day said he traveled to Beijing prepared with a gift.

Diaz said: 

It's very nice to know that as soon as I'm done with what I'm supposed to be doing here that I can just go and spend some time with her.

For Britain's speed skating couple, 23-year-old Ellia Smeding, and 27-year-old Cornelius Kersten, who started a coffee business to fund their Olympic dreams, Valentine's Day has been an afterthought.

Asked if anything was organised for the big day Smeding asked Kersten, "Well, did you have any special plans?" before the couple burst into laughter.

"I don’t think I realised that (it will be Valentine's Day)," Smeding said. "No, until you said it I completely forgot about it," Kersten added.

The couple will have to get creative to find ways of celebrating the day romantically at the Athletes' Village.

Smeding said:

We’ll have to do a KFC date... It's the only thing we could really do at the village - we'll have KFC or pizza.

"Yeah, maybe we'll go and get a romantic haircut together," Kersten joked.

Day apart 

In the skeleton, 27-year-old Brazilian racer Nicole Rocha Silveir has been datin and competing against, Belgium's 25-year-old Kim Meylemans. They met three years ago when Silveira was volunteering at a World Cup event in which the Belgian was racing.

"I'm travelling on the 14th back home so this year, unfortunately, we're going to be spending it (Valentine's Day) apart... I'm slightly hoping, don't tell anyone, it gets cancelled," Silveira said of her flight.

American ice dancers, 25-year-old Kaitlin Hawayek and 28-year-old Jean-Luc Bake were thinking about their pets on the day of love.

"We both have dogs," said Baker. "Neither of us has partners," Hawayek said. "We wish we had our dogs here."

22-year-old New Zealand snowboarder Tiarn Collin has had to take a more practical approach to romance this year.

When asked who was on his mind on Valentine's Day, he said it was hard with social distancing and masks, adding: "Hopefully I can get a bunch of fangirls."


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