SPORTS First snow in Beijing brings city closer to highly anticipated Winter Games


First snow in Beijing brings city closer to highly anticipated Winter Games

Global Times

07:22, January 21, 2022

Beijing welcomed its first snow of 2022 on Thursday, boosting the overall atmosphere for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. All the Winter Olympics-themed scenes along Chang'an Avenue were lit up on Thursday night with official mascots appearing along the avenue with hundreds of flower beds and giant Chinese knot standing in Tiananmen Square.

A Beijing resident takes a photo of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games mascot “Xue Rong Rong” sculpture on January 20, 2022, the solar term of Greater Cold, when the capital city saw its first snowfall this year. (Photo: cnsphoto)

As Winter Olympics officials and staff have been fully preparing for the opening of the Games, which is expected to give confidence and hope to the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has officially entered the Olympic period as it prepares to welcome mass arrivals in the coming days, testing its anti-epidemic defenses.

Meanwhile, the capital has been rigorously fighting both the Omicron and Delta variants, beefing up measures to ensure the Games can be held safely. Officials, athletes and staff members for the event's operations voiced firm confidence in a smooth and successful Olympic event.

Talking to the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Thursday, Pierre Ducrey, the IOC Olympic Games operations director, said all preparations are going ahead smoothly, and the pre-games loop, which began on January 4 and lasts until Saturday, is working very well. "In three days, we'll move to the games-time loop, and we'll see a lot more people arrive. We're getting very close to the opening ceremony, and this is very exciting," he said.

His excitement was also shared by Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of Olympic Broadcasting Services. In the latest media briefing, he said the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 is very different from that of the Summer Games in 2008 but will be "equally impressive."

"The ceremony is practically ready, and it's a ceremony that nobody should miss for any reason," he was quoted as saying in a Xinhua report.

With the first snow on Thursday making Ducrey feel very much closer to the Games, he told the Global Times that everything is coming together very nicely in the preparations for the event, and that Beijing's Olympic lane will officially open on Friday, covering 239.5 kilometers. During the Winter Paralympics, the length of Olympic lanes will be adjusted to 196.7 kilometers.

Also, Beijing transport authorities reminded residents in early January that they should avoid coming into direct contact with vehicles and occupants and wait for professional personnel to attend the scene if they have a traffic accident with Olympic-related vehicles, to protect the closed-loop management system and avoid possible infections.

Confidence in great Games

Tian Peisen, director of the security technology department of the Beijing Aerospace Changfeng Co, who was involved in related work for both the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, told the Global Times that he is confident in the safe and smooth operation of the security system for the upcoming winter games.

Compared to 2008, the overall situation in 2022 has greatly improved, Tian said, citing the country's increased ability in applying big data and artificial intelligence technology, which will provide efficient services for the security department in the decision-making process during an international sports event, as one of the key factors.

Also, in the past 14 years since the 2008 Summer Olympics, China has seen progress in improving social justice and achieving a high level of public satisfaction, while maintaining social stability by effectively countering terrorism and religious extremism, which makes the winter games even safer, Tian noted.

His company has built a security information system for the Chongli district in Zhangjiakou, one of the host areas of the Winter Games, which according to Tian will not only play its own role during the games, but also provide services for the local residents after the Olympics is over, showcasing the "concise" characteristic of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

As the first city in the world to hold dual Olympics, there is a great legacy from Beijing 2008 that can contribute to Beijing 2022, not only in the use of venues but also in the people's experiences and understanding of Olympic culture.

The organizing experience of those involved in the Games in 2008 is very useful in organizing, preparations and also the mental aspect, and "we see a lot of very positive elements that come from the fact that Beijing is not a first-time organizer," Ducrey told the Global Times.

For example, some volunteers who served in Beijing 2008 are now working for Beijing 2022, which has also attracted hundreds and thousands of students to join as game-time volunteers and city volunteers. From December 2019 to December 2021, over 1 million people have registered for volunteer work for the Winter Games, and nearly 20,000 were selected for game-time services.

Widely shared blessing

Despite some voices by the US-led West calling for a so-called diplomatic boycott of the Games, more countries' officials and athletes are looking forward to the event, which is also a special occasion for winter sports lovers to gather, who also expect to have a great experience in Beijing.

Polish President Andrzej Duda will attend the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, according to media reports. The news was warmly welcomed by the Chinese government, as Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a routine press conference on Wednesday that "the decision embodies the international community's shared aspiration to work 'together for a shared future'."

Some top leaders and officials from international organizations have already confirmed their participation, such as UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene.

The Tokyo Games and the Beijing Winter Games demonstrate that as long as the right protocols are established, international groups can join together in a safe manner, and "if you do it right, there's no need to only think about COVID-19," Ducrey said.

As the Games approach, some foreign media outlets and institutions have also tried to cast a shadow over the event by citing so-called human rights issues in China and hyping over food safety and smartphone security for the athletes. However, such trivial voices appeared to be insignificant compared to the overwhelming expectations for the event.

"I have my phone and I eat very well. So this is the shortest answer. I love Chinese food, so I don't have any issues with eating here," Ducrey said on Thursday in response to the media hype.

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