Beijing Games poised to be a great success, despite COVID-19 concerns: Yao Ming
We will have a very good time, says former NBA star
Published: Jan 17, 2022 04:14 PM
Yao Ming photo:Global Times

Yao Ming photo:Global Times

About two weeks ahead of the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, former NBA star Yao Ming, also one of the leading Chinese sports figures to back ­Beijing's bid for the Beijing 2022, told the Global Times on Monday that he is confident that the Games will be a great success despite COVID-19 risks. 

Based on the experience from the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, Yao said although there were a few ­confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Tokyo Games were still successful. 

"The Japanese government put in a lot of effort and ensured that the Games were complete, even though there were certain positive coronavirus cases popping up from time to time. And we can build on that experience and improve," Yao told the Global Times on Monday at a Winter ­Olympics-themed event held by the China Public Diplomacy Association. 

"At least we can ensure that we are above that level of COVID-19 response protocol," he said.

Beijing has beefed up COVID-19 prevention and control measures during the weekend after having detected one case of the more contagious variant of the virus, Omicron, in the city's northwestern Haidian district. Beijing also issued a notice on Sunday that from January 22 to the end of March, arrivals to the capital city are required to take a nucleic acid test within 72 hours of arriving in the city, in addition to previous requirement of a valid test within 48 hours before arrival.

Yao said he is expecting the 2022 Winter Olympics to change how Chinese people are viewed, as when he recalled the Summer Olympics 2008, it had brought massive changes not only to Beijing but also to the entire country. 

"As I come from the southern part of China, I wasn't very familiar with the Winter Games, to be honest," he said, noting that when he was young, his teachers would allow him and his classmates to play outside when it snowed.

"We are confident that from what we learned in 2008, we will be able to make full preparation for the Winter Games," Yao said. "I know that some of you are concerned with the COVID-19 situation, the public health policy and so on, but I can assure you we will have a very good time."  

While some Western countries like the US announced a so-called diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, Yao said whether it's the Winter Olympics or the Summer Olympics, it serves as a platform for athletes, coaches and sports fans around the world, which is the most important thing. 

Although National Hockey League players won't be able to participate in the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Yao said he is expecting to watch the ice hockey competition in the Wukesong Arena, where he participated in the basketball competition at the Beijing 2008 Games. 

Some NBA players and managers also recently made remarks that cast a shadow on the sports exchange between China and the US. For example, Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom tweeted a video in October in support of "Tibet independence," which enraged many Chinese people. The Boston Celtics player also urged athletes to boycott the Winter Olympics.

Sport serves as a bridge of communication, and as long as the bridge exists, time will fix many issues and he is happy to welcome those players who have a negative impression on China to the country, Yao said. 

"But if there's an opportunity, I hope he could come to China, with me and other basketball fans as his guide," he said, noting that seeing China for himself may help him know China in a more comprehensive way.