‘Together for a shared future’: 2022 Olympics highlight genuine friendship beyond borders
Athletes establish special bonds with Chinese people, appreciate memories of Beijing
Published: Feb 20, 2022 10:21 PM Updated: Feb 21, 2022 02:02 PM
Congratulations! Chinese skier Xu Mengtao won gold for Team China in the freeski women's aerials at Beijing 2022 on Monday.Photo:Cui Meng/GT

American athlete Ashley Caldwell congratulates her Chinese rival Xu Mengtao on winning a historic gold medal in women's Freestyle Skiing aerials for China with a hug. Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Hugs, thank-you letters, exchanges of gifts… As the biggest stage in sports in 2022, the Beijing Winter Olympics not only witnessed the fabulous moments of athletes competing for medals on the fields in the past 16 days, but also showed the world how it has built bridges of friendship across national boundaries in the vision of its official motto - "Together for a Shared Future" - as it embraced a successful ending on Sunday. 

"Too much sad," said Edson Bindilatti, a Brazilian bobsledder, when he was asked how he felt about leaving Beijing. "We were welcomed with open arms by all the volunteers, all happy with our presence," the 42-year-old athlete told the Global Times on Sunday. He said he will "miss all [in Beijing]" when he goes back to Brazil. 

Like Bindilatti, many athletes expressed their appreciation for the Games and the Chinese people they have come in contact with, either face-to-face or remotely.

Swiss snowboarder Nevin Galmarini described his Olympics trip as "a special memory" as "all the Chinese people he met [in the Olympics Village] were friendly" and he told the Global Times that he would like to "come back to Beijing another time." 

Jamaica's first Olympic alpine skier, Benjamin Alexander, established a unique friendship with a primary school student who lives in Northeast China's Jilin Province after he received a Winter Olympics-themed picture drawn by the teenager. The Jamaican athlete said the hand-drawn picture was "a lot more important" than other products and thus wrote a thank-you message to his young Chinese friend, who he never met.

Thank-you letters were also sent to the catering team in the Olympic Village in Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei Province by athletes from South Korea and Canada. 

In the letter, the Korean athletes expressed gratitude to the catering team for providing them with a birthday cake and creating a great birthday experience for them, the Global Times learned from the catering team on Sunday. 

As an international sports event, the Beijing 2022 Olympics Games offered a big platform for Chinese people and foreign athletes to better know and interact with each other online. 

Photo:Li Hao/GT

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu and Chinese skater Jin Boyang wear identical Bing Dwen Dwen hats during preparation for the gala exhibition on Sunday. Photo:Li Hao/GT

Friendship among the US and Chinese curlers have won heartfelt praise from netizens and media worldwide as American curlers Chris Plys and Victoria Persinger gave badges in return on February 6 after receiving a commemorative gift - pin badges of the Beijing Winter Olympic mascot Bing Dwen Dwen - from their Chinese rivals. Plys and Persinger were overwhelmed by the surprising gifts and said the gesture was "so cool." 

Nicolas Huber, a snowboarder from Switzerland, is another vivid example. After testing positive for the coronavirus upon arrival in Beijing for the Winter Olympics, Huber began to upload a series of funny videos of him exercising, dancing or wearing a Swiss flag jumpsuit in his room. To his surprise, those videos went viral on the Chinese internet and many fans warmly called him "the Swiss comedian." 

After learning of his popularity in China, Huber even established a Sina Weibo account to show Chinese fans his funny videos. Within a few days, his Weibo account, named Hubercop Swiss comedian, had attracted more than 6,800 fans. 

Before leaving, Huber also posted a video in which he hugged volunteers in the airport, saying good-bye to China. Many netizens said they will miss Huber's humor and welcomed him to come back to China soon. 

Another "super star" who won the hearts of Chinese fans during the Olympics was Jenise Spiteri, the first snowboarder to represent the European island of Malta. Spiteri became well-known on China's social media for her deep love of the Chinese steamed buns served during her stay in the Olympic Village, where she said she ate six steamed buns per day.

In an interview with the Global Times on Sunday, she revealed how she was amazed by the special bond she developed with Chinese people, as many said Spiteri's life story as a professional snowboarder had touched and inspired them. 

"It is so amazing to hear how I have affected people's lives, and how others are inspired to keep working toward their goals and dreams. I really can't believe it. All of the connections I feel to people in China now are so special and I never expected this to happen," she said.

Her favorite thing at the Olympics was trading country pins with all the other athletes and even volunteers, she said, noting that the pins will help her retain her memories of the Games.

In addition to athletes, some other Olympics participants also had "exciting" experiences during the Games, including Gido Tsujioka, an announcer from Japan's NTV, who earned himself a new name "Gido Dwen Dwen" after a sequence of videos showing his craze for Bing Dwen Dwen went viral on Chinese social media. 

On Sunday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying thanked Tsujioka in a tweet for his "interesting reports filled with Bing Dwen Dwen's love," and noted that he can "always come to Beijing for interviews" after the Games.

Delegation members of Serbia and volunteers pose for selfies at the Olympic Village for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Yanqing District of Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 31, 2022. Delegation members and volunteers celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Year of Tiger at the Olympic Village on Monday. (Photo by Xiao Shaowen/Xinhua)

Delegation members of Serbia and volunteers pose for selfies at the Olympic Village for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Yanqing District of Beijing on Jan. 31, 2022 to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year. (Photo by Xiao Shaowen/Xinhua)

As the closest witnesses of the 16-day Winter Olympics, many volunteers noted that the experience of meeting and making friends with international guests was "unforgettable."

Kang Jiahao, a senior at the Hebei Agricultural University who served as an Arrival and Departure assistant during the Olympics, told the Global Times on Sunday that he was impressed by a gift he received from a staffer of the German delegation on February 4, after he helped her out when she had trouble getting nucleic acid testing results before boarding the train in Zhangjiakou. 

"She repeatedly said 'thank you very much,' 'I am grateful for it' when I was helping her, and she gave a German pin to me as a gift when she left," he said. "I will keep all the pins I received from these international friends as there is a story behind each of them - I can recall their smiles whenever I see them, warm and powerful. A pin is also a symbol of international friendship." 

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics were a manifestation of China's openness, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. 

The Beijing Games integrated sporting competition with the Olympic spirit, and also injected new vitality into the unity of the Olympic spirit in the midst of the change of international relations, he said.