Exclusive: Beijing 2022 to deliver extraordinary Games in the most difficult circumstances: Samaranch
Samaranch lauds extraordinary Beijing 2022
Published: Feb 01, 2022 05:56 PM Updated: Feb 02, 2022 12:08 AM

Juan Antonio Samaranch, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022.

In three days, the world will witness the grand opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, marking Beijing as the world's first city to hold both the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. Juan Antonio Samaranch, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Monday that the organizing committee has prepared everything extraordinarily. In full confidence, the Beijing 2022 Games, with the best venues and best winter athletes from around the world, will deliver extraordinary Games in the most difficult circumstances. 

"We have seen with great satisfaction how the organizing committee has prepared everything extraordinarily. We are extremely confident. We are very happy with how things are going," Samaranch told the Global Times, noting that although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) never doubted the abilities of the organizing committee to deliver, COVID-19 made preparation for the Games a complex and complicated project. 

Still, the organizing committee worked under the most difficult circumstances, and they have delivered the same quality that they promised at the beginning, the IOC official said, after spending a couple of weeks in China and visiting all the venues. "I'm amazed and impressed by the quality of what I've seen," he said. 

More foreign athletes participating in the Games shared their daily lives inside the closed-loop. Some were amazed by the remote-controlled beds, considered to be better than the cardboard beds athletes slept in during the 2021 Tokyo Games. Some shared details about the strict anti-epidemic protocols they needed to follow to ensure safe Games. Samaranch did not compare the preparation work for Beijing 2022 with Tokyo 2020, but he said that we have to be fair in praising "both of you" for having delivered and delivering the Games in the most difficult circumstances amid the pandemic.

When it comes to the Winter Olympics, Samaranch said it is probably the best possible competition in the best possible setting, and "I expect nothing less than excellence." He also expects that everybody, in a spirit of peace and brotherhood with self-respect and respect for competitors, can celebrate humanity and how humanity is coming out of the pandemic. 

"It's going to be an extraordinary party for everybody that we are going to be able to be there and certainly very inspirational for the rest of the world," he said. 

The Beijing Winter Olympics is taking place inside the closed-loop and is separated from the general public. During the past four days as of January 31, a total of 119 COVID-19 cases were detected among athletes and personnel involved in the Games, Reuters reported on Tuesday, sparking concerns over the further spread of the virus inside the loop which could impact the outside loop. 

"The closed-loop is working, is safe. Probably the safest place on earth today," Samaranch told the Global Times, saying that the number of positive cases upon arrival is manageable. 

Most of them or all of them are non-critical cases, and many of them are asymptomatic. But nevertheless, we take them very seriously, he said, noting that besides strictly following the WHO and health authorities-approved protocols, tens of thousands of daily tests are conducted within the loop, making the number of cases almost negligible. 

Also, in three days' time, Beijing will become the first city in the world to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, making it the inaugural dual Olympic city. Witnessing the city's path of reaching such a special status, Samaranch said Beijing demonstrated a lot of passion and competence for the Games. The Summer Games in 2008 did change the level and awareness of Chinese sports around the world by increasing the country's competitiveness in many disciplines. China is now one of the top countries in multi-sport events. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping championed China's efforts to win the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Xi, himself a keen winter sports fan, is also encouraging Chinese people to be involved in ice and snow sports. The country has also set a goal to engage 300 million people in winter sports.

The IOC official said the country is heading toward a new bright future for winter sports. "You will have not only an extraordinary legacy on venues and infrastructure but also a higher and more powerful athlete base," he said, noting that very soon China will become a winter sports power. 

And in terms of the Olympic legacies, Samaranch said it was not only about efforts to deliver a wonderful 16-day sports festival, it's about investments and efforts to serve a community of citizens for many years, for example, the people of Beijing. 

At least 32 foreign heads of state, heads of government, members of royal families and heads of international organizations will attend the Games, the Chinese Foreign Ministry recently announced. This 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," some Chinese experts said. 

In response to such a call for a "diplomatic boycott", Samaranch said if politicians for whatever reason, and under whatever circumstances decide, not to come and visit China and visit the Olympic Games, it's their decision. "I do respect it."  

"The truth of the matter is that it has zero effect on the quality of the Games," he said, noting that the only people invited officially to come to the Games are the national Olympic committees of the world and their athletes.

As the Winter Olympics this year coincides with the Chinese New Year, many organizing committee staff, volunteers,  and maintenance staff sacrificed their holidays and family reunions to support the Games, over which Samaranch extended his appreciation. 

"Thank you so much for the effort of sacrificing personal life to deliver this wonderful dream for so many people," he said.