The Korea Herald


[BEIJING OLYMPICS] Pandemic or not, here comes Beijing -- again

By Yonhap

Published : Feb. 4, 2022 - 11:38

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This photo taken on Thursday, shows the Olympic Rings outside the National Stadium in Beijing, the site of the opening ceremony for the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Yonhap) This photo taken on Thursday, shows the Olympic Rings outside the National Stadium in Beijing, the site of the opening ceremony for the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)
BEIJING -- In August 2008, Beijing took center stage as the host of the Summer Olympics, with the quadrennial athletic competition serving as China's coming-out party.

Nearly 14 years later, Beijing is under the spotlight again as the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Once the Games are officially declared open later Friday at the National Stadium -- the same stage for the ceremonies of the 2008 event -- Beijing will become the first city to host both a Summer and a Winter Games.

Things today are vastly different from 2008. For one, China's place in the global hierarchy is already secure. It no longer needs an event such as the Olympics for validation.

Also, China has to cope with a new threat in the form of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, with the virus having first emerged in this country in late 2019.

In line with its "Zero COVID" policy, China has put all Olympic participants inside its "closed-loop system," or a bubble. Athletes are confined to their living quarters and training or competition venues. Daily testing is a requirement, not a choice, and those who test positive for the virus can have their Olympic dreams snatched away. Over 200 Games-related personnel have tested positive for the virus as of Wednesday.

The opening of the Winter Games will not be celebrated by everyone. The United States, Britain, Canada and Australia are among countries that have decided not to send government delegations, in a "diplomatic boycott" over China's human rights abuses.

Those countries still sent their athletes to compete at the Olympics, which will conclude on Feb. 20. All told, there are nearly 3,000 athletes from 91 nations vying for a record 109 gold medals in seven sports.

South Korea has sent 64 athletes and 61 officials to compete in six sports, with hockey being the lone exception.

Of them, 20 athletes and 28 officials will take part in the opening ceremony. Short track speed skaters Kwak Yoon-gy and Kim A-lang, both competing in their third Winter Games, will be the flag bearers.

South Korea will be the 73rd nation to enter the main stadium during the parade, based on the order determined by the Chinese language.

Though Beijing did not sell tickets to the general public due to the pandemic, it will invite some spectators to the ceremony, though it wasn't immediately clear how many will be there. The same policy will hold for sports events: no tickets sold to the public with only selected people allowed to attend. Preliminary curling matches and hockey games have taken place in front of several fans this week.

The renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who oversaw the 2008 ceremony, is back in the same role. While details have been kept under wraps, Zhang previously told Chinese media that about 3,000 performers will take part in the show under the themes that include environmental protection and low carbon emission. (Yonhap)