Four months before the launch date, the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing still raise some questions for the international community. The Games will take place from the 4th to the 20th of February 2022 – and many doubts remain, especially from the press outlets. Beside their COVID-free policy, the Chinese authorities have an influential say on this international event. Considering all of this leads to ambiguous restrictions and controversial measures – in a way different atmosphere from the last Beijing Games.
China on the top
2008 really began the Olympic adventure for China. With the Beijing Summer Games, the developing country took the opportunity to show their improvements worldwide. Organizing the biggest multisports event and resulting in a successful edition, the on-raising China got the international reputation they were looking for. But thirteen years later, being the first helder of summer and winter games in the same city, the Middle Kingdom has radically changed their ambitions.
Universally recognized as a superpower, China is now calling the shots. They strongly want their own games, taking distance from the West-world directives they have been subjected to in 2008. Therefore, big shifts in the event management will rhythm those 2022 games. As they have nothing more to prove around them, they are focusing on the development of their own industries, mainly the winter sports’ one. The expansion of this sector could benefit the whole financial branch. Constructing modern facilities will drain over 300 millions Chinese, who previously prefered to travel to Europe, in the Alps, for winter tourism.
To reach that self-dependant goal, Chinese giants, like the Alibaba Group, also approached the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in order to take a large part in the Olympic partner sponsorship program. Even the sportswear of the athletes will be 100% made in china merchandising. Consequently, China plays its trump cards on the economical field, indirectly winning much influence in the Olympics executives. What looks like a monopoly position should not worry the international community. “The IOC is still well served by the financial resources that come from many other parts of the world, I wouldn’t see that as a big issue”, reassured the ex-Vice President of the CIO Kevan Gosper.
Another western preoccupation lasts in the foreigners’ freedom during the Games. Diplomatic relations with China have been under tension last months, notably because of the Uyghurs case. Those recent political disputes strengthened the Chinese distrust, slowly adding new restrictions to foreigners. Plenty of journalists have seen their access denied in the last pre-event meetings – the Olympic Flame venue for instance. Therefore, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) published on the 2nd of November a 33-points blaming thread on Twitter.
They mainly report “the lack of transparency and clarity from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) as well as the International Olympic Committee with regards to Olympic-related reporting in China”. Pointing out a violation of press rights, the FCCC expects reactions from the IOC – journalists should be safely allowed to cover the event.
Logically, COVID-19 does not help the journey to the 2022 Winter games. Even though low cases have been noticed in Beijing for the last two weeks, authorities established a stringent settlement : mandatory shielding measures, daily testing and monitored clusters before the event. Some sources are even thinking that the Chinese government is using the COVID as a convenient excuse to reduce the freedom of movement. However, organizers are talking of a COVID-free bubble, prepared months ago, for an unique reason : to welcome each athlete in healthy surroundings. The strict health rules should not discourage anyone from visiting China, they assured.
An expensive event
COVID also delayed the preparation of the Olympic Games. Even though the BOCOG planned to adapt the 2008 installations, like the National Stadium built for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, they also had to achieve some impressive work in the neighbourhood of Beijing, on the sites of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou. Many infrastructures are redesigned, refreshed or set up with brand new material, involving a large cost in energy and money.
Moreover, the event probably won’t respect the environmental standards people expect of such a meeting. Artificial snow and ice will be the key conditions for most of the 109 disciplines, easily increasing the ecological footprint of those games. According to a trusty weather forecast website, less than one inch of snow had fallen in the capital city of China this year. This represents less than what snowed in London or Paris in February 2021. Even with a promise of a 100% green-energy use, Beijing 2022 may be one the most unsustainable Olympics ever.
No rights, no games
Back on the Uygurs’ concern, many activist groups are calling to boycott the games. “No rights, no games”, can be read on most of their campaigns. In fact, the international community is blaming the Chinese government for abuse of some ethnic populations. Therefore, politicians are asked to support the movement, not going to Beijing. A lot of stars and athletes joined the ranks, using their social networks to convince them of an Olympics cancellation. The IOC is then facing a rude dilemma, but its president Thomas Bach underlined : “The Olympic Games are not about politics. The International Olympic Committee, as a civil, non-governmental, organisation is strictly politically neutral at all times”. However, it is not the first time that Games’ cancellation happened, despite the huge level of organization : Sapporo 1940 and Cortina 1944, for instance, have been cancelled because of World War II.
On the whole, Beijing 2022 still has big chances to take place this February. At four months of the Opening Ceremony, all indications show a tarnished, but enormous event that will keep the sporting spirit alive.
on-raising = en voie de développement
a shift = un changement
mandatory = obligatoire
a journey = un voyage
tarnished = salie (réputation)