CHINA / DIPLOMACY
Beijing enters Winter Games time
City shows confidence against outside noises, virus mutants
Published: Jan 05, 2022 10:36 PM Updated: Jan 05, 2022 10:28 PM
Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, visits the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing on January 4, 2022. Xi inspected the preparations for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing on January 4, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, visits the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing on January 4, 2022. Xi inspected the preparations for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing on January 4, 2022. Photo: Xinhua


With less than one month to go before the opening of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, widely and fondly known as the Beijing 2022 Games, the host city shows the world its confidence and readiness. 

Beijing has been fully prepared in all areas, including the construction of venues and other infrastructure, the service assurance system, preparations for sustainability, and the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to the spokesperson of the Beijing 2022 Games. 

Challenging as it is to host such an international event in the current state of the world, Beijing has maintained its confidence in the face of noises from the outside world and the mutating virus through thorough preparations, the Games' spokespersons said. 

Just as Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his New Year address, "the world is turning its eyes to China, and China is ready." 

Xi inspects venues, meets athletes

A month ahead of the Games' opening ceremonies, Xi inspected the preparations for the Games on Tuesday.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, extended New Year greetings to athletes, coaches, volunteers and representatives of the operation teams, the media and scientific research staff during his inspection tour.

Xi has paid great attention to the preparations for the Winter Olympics. Tuesday's was his fifth inspection visit to the Winter Olympics sites, following tours in January and February 2017, February 2019 and January 2021.

Xi also inspected some high-tech training facilities such as a wind tunnel and a 6-DOF (six degrees of freedom) at the training base, learning about how Chinese athletes train and recover from injuries with the help of technological innovations.

In his New Year address he delivered on the last day of 2021, Xi vowed that the country would spare no effort to present a great Winter Olympics to the world. 

Having repeatedly delivered strong results at the Summer Olympics, Team China is still seeking a breakthrough in its history in winter sports. Athletes of Chinese delegations have won a total of 13 gold medals in past Winter Games, most of which in short track speed skating. The upcoming Winter Olympics on China's home turf is seen as the best chance for Team China to make a breakthrough.

At the time of Beijing's successful 2015 bid to host the Winter Olympics, one-third of the competing events have never been practiced in China. China had stated its goal to have athletes competing in all sports.

As of Wednesday, of the 109 events to be competed in the Beijing 2022 Games, Chinese athletes have qualified for 95 events, covering all seven sports. 

In addition to the traditional dominant events, China's weak events made history. The team of 408 athletes will be competing in all 12 events of cross-country skiing, for the first time, and alpine skiing athletes also qualified in most of the events.

"Only those who withstand the freezing cold could enjoy the fragrance of plum blossoms," Xi quoted an ancient Chinese poem during his visit on Tuesday to encourage the athletes to cherish the precious opportunity after years of preparations for sporting excellence.

Xi told the athletes that he hopes that they can exhibit the spirit and competitive level of Chinese athletes in the new era during the Beijing Games, and strive to take the best medal in terms of competition morality and style, wishing them good luck. 

Pre-games operations begin at venues 

Beijing officially opened the Main Media Center (MMC) for the Winter Olympics on Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee, during the pre-games operation period from January 4 to January 22, the MMC will host more than 1,700 journalists and broadcasters from around the world. When the Winter Olympics begins, the MMC will be hosting 5,000 to 6,000 people per day.

The MMC began operating under closed-loop management on Tuesday, Zhang Lidong, chief engineer of the China National Convention Center to be used as the MMC for the Beijing Winter Olympics, told the Global Times.

The MMC is divided into two parts - inside and outside the closed loop - both of which will host journalists from home and abroad. Such partition poses an additional challenge to the epidemic prevention and control of the center. This venue is also strictly designed to ensure that personnel activities do not cross over. Even items from inside the closed ring cannot be sent outside the closed loop.

Zhao Chengfang, a deputy head of the COVID-19 prevention department at the Capital Gymnasium, told the Global Times that starting Tuesday, pre-games closed-loop management will be launched at all the Olympic venues according to the Games' playbook. 

The closed loop management system, the core system in Beijing 2022's epidemic prevention policies, strictly limits games-related personnel to a few fixed venues with no access to the outside world. These personnel were required to undergo daily testing and were also only allowed to move between venues as arranged by the organizers.

"Event support staff from overseas have arrived at the venues to begin their work," Zhao said. "Venues have begun to strictly enforce the same vaccination policies as those in place during the Games."

Venue staff told the Global Times that the Olympic venues are operating in an orderly manner. 

Before the official start of the Games, Olympics-related personnel who have been in the closed loop for 21 days and are not showing symptoms are free to move within the loop.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of on-the-spot spectators at this year's Winter Olympics will be strictly limited, which makes media coverage and broadcasting much more important than in previous Winter Olympic Games.

No overseas journalists have arrived at the center yet, Zhang said. "Relevant staff will start working on Tuesday, while reporters are expected to arrive in a few weeks."

Not worried by virus, noises 

Given the world's current pandemic situation, hosting an international sporting event of such a scale can be extremely challenging. However, Beijing has always shown a disdain for outside noises and confidence in its anti-epidemic policies.

The Beijing 2022 Games' spokesperson Yan Jiarong said on Wednesday that the Olympics and sports should not be used as political tools, and that politicizing sports will only create divisions. 

Her comments were made in response to the US and a handful of its allies announcing they won't send government officials, or senior government officials, to the Beijing Winter Olympics.

"Politicizing sports goes against the spirit of 'togetherness' and will only result in divisions," Yan said in an interview. 

Yan said that as the human society is facing multiple challenges globally, international society needs more than ever the Olympic spirit and togetherness. She said that the few noises cannot hinder the successful hosting of the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and cannot stop the world from being united to create a better world.

Zhao Weidong, the other Beijign 2022 spokesperson, noted that China, as the organizer, is closely evaluating the risks the Omicron variant would have on the Games. 

"COVID-19 has brought great challenges for the organization work," Zhao said. "We are paying close attention to the contagious virus, especially the new Omicron variant, to evaluate its impact on the Games."

We have full confidence in epidemic prevention, Zhao said.