Austrian ambassador recognizes Beijing’s strict measures against virus for Winter Games
Beijing offers the world a chance to celebrate sports together amid global pandemic: ambassador
Published: Jan 27, 2022 05:36 PM
Austrian Ambassador to China Andreas Riecken during an exclusive interview with the Global Times. Photo: Lin Luwen/GT

Austrian Ambassador to China Andreas Riecken during an exclusive interview with the Global Times. Photo: Lin Luwen/GT

"It is important that Beijing provides the opportunity for us to come together to celebrate sports, especially when COVID-19 is spreading around the world," Austrian Ambassador to China Andreas Riecken said in an interview with the Global Times as the Beijing Winter Olympic Games are just around the corner. He expressed appreciation for China's resolution and efforts to hold the Games and expectation for the wonderful performance of the Austrian delegation.

Riecken recognized Beijing's strict measures against the virus during the Games. He noted that "because the emergence of the Omicron variant, it will be important to have protection mechanisms in place to make sure that everything is going to run smoothly."

The ambassador added that the reason why the country decided not to send an official representation of the government to Beijing is the crisis with the Omicron variant back in Austria and is not related in any way with a "boycott." 

"I heard from the Austrian National Olympic Committee that the venues are very well prepared and that they fulfill all the international standards. They are looking forward to using the different venues that were constructed and prepared by the Chinese organizers," Riecken said. 

He also mentioned that the Winter Olympic Games are very important for Austria. "The Austrian delegation including trainers, coaches and support staff will be about 350 people in size. There will be around 105 athletes," said Riecken.

The Alps cross the country from west to east, making Austria a fertile ground for winter sports with natural affinity to the Winter Olympics. Austria is in sixth place on the all-time medal list for the Winter Olympics with 232 medals. The country hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice in Innsbruck, in 1964 and 1976, and the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012. 

"For Austrian athletes, the Games will be a highlight. They have been preparing for a long time and really looking forward to the Games," the ambassador said, adding that his country has high expectations on their athletes' performance in Beijing. 

"At the last five Olympic Winter Games Austria has always been among the top 10 countries on the medal rankings, which is also what we hope to achieve in Beijing," Riecken noted.

However, he mentioned he does not want to speculate in advance on how many medals the delegation will win to avoid putting pressure on them, adding that "they should just have fun and show the world what they are able to do."

Speaking about cooperation by the two countries in this field, Riecken said that many Chinese athletes have traveled to the Austrian mountains to prepare and train for the Winter Olympic Games. Besides, Austrian companies have been helping China to develop slopes and winter tourism spots in China, which he believes have a huge potential. 

"Winter sports and the winter Olympics are an excellent occasion to deepen collaboration and develop cooperation between Austria and China," Riecken said, adding that he is happy to see China has fulfilled its promise of attracting 300 million people to participate in ice and snow sports as part of its Olympic bid.

"The organization and the hosting of the Winter Olympic Games is an excellent opportunity for the Chinese government to make winter sports more popular in the country which we think is a great way to stay outside, practice sports and live a healthy life. This is why we are happy that we can cooperate in this area," he added.

Riecken also mentioned that he has noticed that increasing numbers of Chinese are interested in winter sports. For this reason, more winter resorts are needed and this is an area Austria has a lot of experience in. "We can provide to our Chinese colleagues and partners the experience in that field," the ambassador remarked.