BEIJING (NEXSTAR) — It’s the biggest stage in sports, but the stands will be empty.
The Winter Olympics in Beijing are being held without fans in attendance. On dignitaries, workers and media will be able to watch from inside venues.
After years of hard work, athletes will not have their families present as they fulfill their Olympic dreams.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” Abby Roque from the women’s hockey team said. “A lot of my family members, even some of my friends, were so excited to come; had already taken work off and things like that” before learning no fans would be permitted.
Speedskater Ryan Pivirotto leaned on his family when he battled depression after a less-than-ideal Olympic experience in Pyeonchang in 2018.
“I really wish they could have come out and seen me compete. It’s just won’t work and I’m sad about that,” he said.
Figure skater Jason Brown had to wait eight years between Olympic appearances. Looking up and seeing empty seats in the stands leaves him feeling empty, too.
“It’s really tough. Since I was 5 years old and started competing, they have been at every single event,” Brown said. “COVID, obviously, has thrown that for a little bit of a loop. But I know they’re at home watching, cheering me on.”
Beijing is snowboarder Nick Baumgartner’s fourth Olympics. He finished in fourth place in Pyeongchang, only one spot away from a medal. It’s the kind of thing that can break an elite athlete’s heart, but when he got to the finish line, he was still greeted by his son. That won’t happen this time.
“It’s a bummer. … Having him at the bottom and my family there, it was great to see him. He’s jumping up and down, just blown away and so excited. And I’m like, well, I can’t be bummed out with that happening,” Baumgartner recalled.
Win or lose, athletes know their loved ones will be cheering them on from home, but it’s not the same. The hugs of joy or consolation will have to wait.