32 world leaders to attend Beijing Olympics amid bankruptcy of US' boycott calls
Published: Jan 28, 2022 02:48 PM
Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, and hold a welcome banquet for at least 32 foreign heads of state, heads of government, members of the royal family and heads of international organizations, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced on Friday. Such large scale of foreign leaders to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics - an unprecedented offline gathering of top leaders since the pandemic - underscore China's capacity of unifying others amid challenging time, which also signals the widely shared support and expectations of the global community for the Games and completely defies the trivial voices of the US-led Western clique in calling for a "diplomatic boycott of the Games," experts said. 

It will also be China's first home diplomacy this year, as through bilateral activities, countries are expected to increase consensus and enhance relations with China by celebrating the Olympics and Chinese New Year - the most important Chinese traditional festival. 

The invited heads of state, heads of government and members of the royal family include six from Europe, five from Central Asia, three from the Middle East, two from South America, and others from Asia, the Pacific and Africa, according to the list released on the website of the ministry. 

President Vladimir Putin of Russia was listed as the first head of state in the list and was also the first foreign leader who confirmed his presence last year. Some experts considered him as the most important guest given there's no limit for China-Russia friendship and considering the current situation.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus are among the heads of the international organizations to be present. 

In July, fewer than 30 heads of state and other officials of similar stature attended the opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020, which was the fewest on record for a recent Olympics, Japan News reported last year. 

As the Beijing Winter Olympics entered the seven-day countdown, there's growing enthusiasm and support for the Games, which is shown not only in the number of attendees but also in a collective voice of the mainstream international community eagerly expecting the Games - the first one to be held as scheduled amid the pandemic, injecting new hope and momentum for the world after two years of struggle against the COVID-19. 

Against the backdrop of the rampant spread of the Omicron variant globally, these leaders chose to come to Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games and overcome many difficulties, which showcased their sincerity in firmly supporting China and the Olympic Games, Ruan Zongze, executive vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Holding the Winter Olympics as scheduled under the current pandemic also showed China's contribution to the world on promoting global unity, confidence and joint work in overcoming the coronavirus and realizing shared developments, Ruan noted. 

For instance, to comply with epidemiological safety measures amid the continuing rampage of the virus, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov shifted to remote work ahead of his upcoming visit to China, the press service of the president said on Monday.

The large scale of foreign guests to Beijing is also a strong response to the tactics played by a few Western countries and the US on calling for a "boycott" of the Games, highlighting the failure and unpopularity of the boycott, Ruan noted.

The first group 20 athletes of Latvia's delegation for Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games pose for a photo at Riga international airport during a media event in Riga, Latvia, Jan. 26, 2022. (Photo by Edijs Palens/Xinhua)

The first group 20 athletes of Latvia's delegation for Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games pose for a photo at Riga international airport during a media event in Riga, Latvia, Jan. 26, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

China's friends circle

Ding Xiaoxing, director of the Eurasia Institute of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that 32 visiting dignitaries attending the Winter Olympics shows that the international society recognizes and supports China's foreign policy and multilateralism.

Amid the impact of the pandemic, China offered a smaller number of invitations to world leaders. But there were still leaders who voluntarily offered to come, Ding said, noting there would be more visiting leaders if China sent invitations to a wider community.

Besides South Korean National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-Seug who will attend the opening ceremony and relevant activities, South Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hwang Hee will lead a government delegation to the upcoming Games, according to media reports. 

Such high expectations have also been widely shared by a growing number of foreign countries' officials and athletes and sports group representatives. For example, photos and videos circulating on social media showed that the US and Canadian teams have departed for Beijing, and groups of athletes expressed excitement. 

The Winter Olympics will be China's first event of home diplomacy at the beginning of 2022, with countries expected to deepen relations with China through high-level meetings, Ding said. 

For example, leaders of the five Central Asian countries will come to China for the Beijing Games - 10 days after a virtual summit between leaders of China and the five countries on January 25, showing the friendliness between China and its neighbors in the past three decades. These leaders' visit to China will help further boost relations and facilitate future cooperation, especially under the Belt and Road Initiative, analysts said.

World leaders gathering at Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

World leaders gathering at Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Enhanced ties 

The Winter Olympics will be held during Chinese New Year for the foreign dignitaries to enjoy Chinese traditions.

Among those leaders, Putin was the first foreign leader last year to confirm his presence at the Beijing Olympics, and the meeting between Xi and Putin will be the first in-person meeting between the two leaders since the pandemic started.

"The Xi-Putin summit will draw global attention next week with great significance not only in leading bilateral relations in 2022, but also in voicing multilateralism and objecting to small cliques that split the international community," Ding said, noting the two leaders are also expected to exchange views on important international issues such as Russia-Ukraine conflicts. 

The meeting between the two at the Beijing Winter Olympics will also be a promise fulfilled eight years after Xi's attendance at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, experts said.

These leaders' attendance also showed that they hope China will successfully hold the Games and that they have confidence in China. Some leaders will come to attend the Beijing Olympics even though their countries have no athletes to the Winter Games as they know the importance of the Games and they are showing support to the sports spirit, Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the Department for International and Strategic Studies of China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

"These countries' sincerity contrasts with a few countries' wretched actions," she said.