Committee selected Beijing in 2015
Beijing Olympic Protest
A protester holds a placard reading ‘Shame on China’ during a protest march gathering Tibetans from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters to the Olympic Museum ahead of the opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Lausanne on February 3, 2022 AFP
February 4, 2022 3:00 PM
The Beijing Olympics, wrapped in a bubble against Covid-19, shadowed by a diplomatic boycott over human rights and devoid of most spectators, begin on Friday with a return to the scene of China’s triumphant 2008 Summer Games launch.
As in 2008, the opening ceremony will take place at the distinctive Bird’s Nest stadium, in central Beijing, under the guidance of film director Zhang Yimou, culminating in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.
Though smaller in scale than the Summer Games, the Winter edition will be staged by a much more prosperous, powerful, confident and confrontational China, whose hosting of the event has drawn criticism since the International Olympic Committee selected Beijing in 2015.
Friday’s show promises to be a spectacle of music, choreography and technology – nothing less would do after China wowed a global audience of billions in 2008.
But it will also be in keeping with President Xi Jinping’s pledge to deliver games that are not only “safe and splendid”, but “streamlined” and environmentally friendly.
For starters, the ceremony will be about half as long as the four-hour marathon in 2008, to the relief of attendees who will shiver through temperatures forecast at -4 degrees Celsius (25 degrees Fahrenheit) for the 6pm (local time) start.
The fireworks used on Friday night will equal only 10% of those used in 2008, and only in silver, white and green.
The crowd itself will be smaller, with organizers deciding last month not to sell tickets to Olympic events to curtail the spread of Covid-19. A “closed loop” will separate competitors and other personnel from the Chinese public throughout the Olympics.
The make-up of the attendees, most of them subject to strict Covid-19 protocols before and during the event, is also different from 2008 when more than 100 heads of state or government were present.
This year, with numerous countries including the United States, Britain and Australia mounting diplomatic boycotts, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in the Chinese capital on Friday where he was set to meet with Xi, headlines a list of 25 foreign leaders coming to Beijing.
He will be joined at the Games by Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, Pakistan’s Imran Khan, the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyhan and Argentina President Albert