OPINION: With the opening of the Winter Olympics just 16 days away, the world is turning its eyes to China, and China is ready.
For most South Africans, the Winter Olympics due to start on February 4 in Beijing will be of little interest as South Africa is not sending a team, unlike 2018 when it did. However, for citizens of over 90 countries, which include newcomers Haiti and Saudi Arabia, there will be intense interest as Beijing is the first city that will host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, with the slogan "Together for a Shared Future!"
Hosting both editions allowed Beijing to use several venues that had been constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics. This meant that the budget for the 2022 Winter Olympics was only US$3.9 billion compared with the $43bn budget for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The main venue that TV viewers will see will be the Beijing National Stadium, known as the “Bird’s Nest”, which has a capacity of 80 000. The opening, medal awards and closing ceremonies will be held there. The Beijing National Aquatics Centre, which was the venue for the swimming and diving events in the Summer Olympics, has been repurposed to host the curling events. The Beijing National Indoor Stadium now hosts an ice hockey venue, while the Capital Indoor Stadium will host the figure skating and short-track speed skating events. The Wukesong Sports Centre will also host ice hockey events.
President Xi Jinping told the world in his New Year address on December 31 that “China is ready” for a great Olympics. "We will spare no efforts to present great Games to the world," he said.
The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to include a record 109 events over 15 disciplines in seven sports which will be seven events more than in 2018. At the closing ceremony on February 20, an artistic spectacle will be featured to showcase the culture and history of the next host nation, Italy, for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Given the uncertainties of natural weather, especially snowfall, international snow sports events, especially the Winter Olympics, often use artificial snow. International experts said concerns over the use of artificial snow at Beijing 2022 were unfounded and not based on evidence. Ski resorts in Europe and North America that normally enjoy heavy snowfall, use artificial snow as a more efficient and reliable alternative to natural snow when shaping competition courses for almost all skiing and snowboarding disciplines, as the artificial snow ensures that all competitors face the same course.
Unlike the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which was postponed to 2021, the organising committee decided that the Olympics this year would go ahead as scheduled, but with strict Covid-19 protocols in place. Last year, the organising committee mandated that all athletes would be required to remain within the bio-secure bubble for the duration of their participation, which includes daily Covid-19 testing and only being allowed to travel to and from Games-related venues.
In addition, all athletes were required to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival unless they were fully vaccinated or had a valid medical exemption.
On January 17, this year, due to increasing lockdowns across China and the first detected case of the Omicron variant in Beijing, planned ticket sales to the public was cancelled. Instead, a limited number of spectators will be admitted by invitation only. Many sports events during the Covid-19 pandemic have seen athletes perform in empty stadiums, so this should not detract from the athletes doing their best and sharing a special moment as they aim to live up to the Olympic slogan of "Citius, Altius, Fortius", which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.
“In order to protect the health and safety of Olympic-related personnel and spectators, it was decided to adjust the original plan to sell tickets to the public and (instead) organise spectators to watch the games on-site,” the Beijing Local Organising Committee said.
And 5G and other telecommunications devices have been developed and built for the event. China has launched 5G high-speed trains for Winter Olympics. The Beijing Organising Committee built the 5G signal tower for broadcasting to an altitude of 5 000 metres above sea level and achieved 5G signal coverage for the Observation Deck and Camp 1, the first time this has been done in the history of the Olympic Games. This means that 5G signal will cover all Winter Olympic venues and roads and railways connecting them.
Ordinary viewers will have the opportunity to enjoy the world’s clearest broadcast technology, 8K broadcast in ultra high definition, from their homes. Viewers will also be able to experience the games in virtual reality (VR), according to the organising committee.
President Xi Jinping encouraged countries to promote mutual learning and exchanges and deepen understanding of different civilisations to form consensus on building a community with a shared future for mankind. The common values of humanity, namely peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, create the best synergy of the values of different civilisations as they also represent the most fundamental values pursued by mankind. Winter Olympics will be one of the best ways to achieve this goal.
With the opening of the Winter Olympics just 16 days away, the world is turning its eyes to China, and China is ready.
* Helmo Preuss is an Economist at Forecaster Ecosa
** The views expressed here may not necessarily be that of IOL.