Beijing Winter Olympics venue 'the coolest', hospitality makes best possible experiences for athletes: US bobsledder
Published: Feb 01, 2022 03:45 PM
Carlo Valdes, a member of the US team to the 2022 Winter Olympics, poised for a photo with five rings of the Olympic symbol. Photo: Courtesy of Valdes

Carlo Valdes, a member of the US team to the 2022 Winter Olympics, poised for a photo with five rings of the Olympic symbol. Photo: Courtesy of Valdes

For US bobsledder Carlo Valdes, a member of the US team to the 2022 Winter Olympics, the experiences in Beijing have been awesome so far. 

As it will be his second time to the Winter Olympics after he competed in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Valdes told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that given the COVID-19 limitations, the organizers stepped up efforts to make the accommodations, training and race conditions better for the athletes, especially the bobsleigh track in Yanqing which he described as the "coolest track" he's ever experienced. 

Valdes told the Global Times in a phone interview that he landed in Beijing on Friday, and went through customs and COVID-19 testing. 

"It's a long process but they've been doing a great job by keeping everything organized and getting us through all these protocols as smoothly as possible," he said. 

Although it's a long journey from Los Angeles to Beijing, which took about 25 hours in total, the Olympic Village in Yanqing "has been awesome," he said, noting that the facilities are great and that the staff have done a great job. 

All the volunteers working here have been super awesome and nice, making things very easy for us, the US bobsledder said, noting that such hospitality makes it the best possible experience for the athletes.

"Compared to [South] Korea… you can tell that the organizers wanted to do a step up and try to make it better for athletes," he said. "Given everything going on with COVID and all the limitations, it's been an awesome experience so far."

For how small the villages are, the staff are definitely making the most of the space, making everything very accessible, the US athlete said. Even though there are no fans and little interaction with the other villages, there are still many opportunities for the athletes around the world to have good experiences during the Olympics, Valdes noted. 

Nearly half of all athletes participating in the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 have arrived in China, and over the past few days have been familiarizing themselves with the 12 competition venues following initial training, the International Olympic Committee said on Monday. Like other athletes, Valdes also checked the bobsleigh track in Yanqing on Monday. 

"It's the coolest track I've ever experienced," he told the Global Times, noting that it shows that the amount of time the organizing committee and staff have put into the Games has really paid off.

For the 32-year-old American athlete from California, this is also the first time to visit China, though, with COVID-19 and closed-loop restrictions, he could not visit tourist sites such as the Great Wall. 

He said such restrictions have not changed his way of thinking about the country, "because I definitely want to visit [China] again", not just Beijing, but other cities like Shanghai, he said. 

"I've had other friends that have visited here and have said many times how much they've enjoyed their time in China and it's a great place to visit," Valdes said, noting that he hopes to visit the country again soon when everything is back to normal and experience more. 

Ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, some US politicians including those from the Biden administration have been calling for a so-called diplomatic boycott of the Games, citing so-called human rights issues, among others, in China. However, many US athletes like Valdes have been eager to travel to Beijing, sharing their trips and experiences in the Olympic Village on social media from time to time. Such growing enthusiasm defies the politicization of the Games. 

"Honestly, that's not something that I'm too worried about or have been worried about actually, I've been much focused on form of the best I can here and making the most opportunity," Valdes said when he commented on such political calls. 

Olympics are about bringing the world together and having everyone be cheering for the same thing, essentially cheering for their countries and for everyone to put their differences aside for two to three weeks, he said, noting that he believes that everyone should just enjoy the Games and that they're a great time for athletes like himself to celebrate and get ready to see how four years of hard work turn out and to win a medal.

In three days, Valdes, with his teammates, will appear at the Bird's Nest, known as the Chinese National Stadium where the flame of the Summer Olympics in 2008 was lit. While he has been expecting such an experience, he also shared his expectation "to push very fast and be top three at the start." 

"And hopefully, the output is in contention for a metal at the bottom," he said, noting that he has to place in the best position possible. 

Photo: Courtesy of Valdes

Bobsleigh track in Yanqing. Photo: Courtesy of Valdes