China, Beijing: The Beijing Winter Olympics torch relay began its shortened trek to Friday’s opening ceremony as China sought to move past the diplomatic boycotts and COVID-19 worries that have plagued the Games’ build-up.
Curling begins later Wednesday, two days before the formal start of an Olympics plagued by issues ranging from rights concerns to Peng Shuai and Chinese government cautions about surveillance.
Adopting the slogan “Together for a shared future” China, its governing Communist Party, and the International Olympic Committee believe that all the squabbling will be forgotten once the Games begin.
The torch relay took span swaths of China and other nations during Beijing’s 2008 Summer Games, when it was met with demonstrations in areas, but this time it would take only three days, terminating at the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the opening ceremony.
Cai Qi, a Beijing 2022 official, stated at the commencement of the relay — which will feature over 1,000 torchbearers, including former NBA star Yao Ming — that he hoped the Games will help “dispel the gloom of the pandemic”
If the 2008 Olympics were the country’s coming-out party, these Games will take place in a China led by President Xi Jinping that is becoming more assertive on the global stage while still boasting the world’s second-largest economy.
When Washington announced a diplomatic embargo on human rights concerns, with Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada following suit, China warned that the US would “pay the price”
The Biden administration will not deploy diplomatic or formal representation in response to China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity” against Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang area.
Participants from boycotting nations will compete in the Games, which run through February 20, but a US rights monitor raised concerns about athletes’ safety this week after the hosts warned “punishment” for anti-Beijing sentiments.
There will be three zones for the Games. In addition to downtown Beijing, the two other regions are located outside of the city limits and will rely on artificial snow to cover what would otherwise be brown mountain slopes. Concerns have been expressed by environmentalists. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that a sporting event is taking place.
Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States is aiming for a third slalom gold medal, while Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is aiming for a hat-trick of Olympic figure-skating titles.
There will be a lot of attention in Chloe Kim, the American snowboarder who melted hearts when she won gold at the Pyeongchang Olympics at the age of 17, while Eileen Gu appears to be the face of the Games.