Sept. 30 (UPI) -- For the second consecutive Olympic Games, organizers have barred international spectators from the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February due to concerns about spreading COVID-19.
The International Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday that only spectators from mainland China will be allowed at the Games, which are scheduled to begin Feb. 4.
The rule applies also to the Paralympic Games, which follow the Olympics every four years.
Organizers noted that athletes, officials, broadcasters, journalists and other staff must stay in a closed bubble from Jan. 23 to March 13, a period which begins a couple weeks before the Games and lasts through the Paralympics.
Also, all attendees must be fully vaccinated or undergo a 21-day quarantine, and they're all subject to daily coronavirus testing.
"This will facilitate the growth of winter sports in China by giving those spectators a first-hand Olympic and Paralympic experience of elite winter sports," the IOC said in a statement.
"However, all parties feel for the athletes and the spectators from around the world, knowing that the restriction on spectators from outside mainland China had to be put in place in order to ensure the safe holding of the Games."
Beijing is the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. The city was the site of the 2008 Summer Games.
The IOC's announcement Wednesday marked the second straight time that international spectators were banned from an Olympic Games.
Organizers made the same decision for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, but ultimately ended up barring all spectators due to surges in COVID-19 cases across Japan in the months leading up to the Games.
U.S. Olympic officials said last week that all American athletes participating at the Beijing Games must be vaccinated by Dec. 1.
The Beijing Games will run through Feb. 20.