By Alex Budzynski, Editor-in-Chief
The Olympic flame was set ablaze last Friday to open the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, making it the first city to host both summer and winter games.
According o the International Olympic Committee (IOC), there are 91 delegations at the games with over 2,900 athletes competing in 109 events. There are 15 different disciplines across seven sports, with new events in bobsled, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, short track and ski jumping.
The 2022 games are now the second to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vowing to keep them virus-free, Chinese authorities have constructed a “closed loop” — a vast network of bubbles designed to separate Olympic personnel from the rest of the city.
There were about 300 cases detected in Beijing’s arrival protocols, which is something Chinese organizers expected. In the bubble, all athletes and team officials are subject to daily testing and regular temperature checks. They are also only allowed to take dedicated vehicles — buses, trains and vans — to the various sites, which are spread in the city and on nearby mountains.
“In terms of public health measures, this is the most ambitious, most stringent Olympics in history,” Yanzhong Huang, a public health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said.
In a suspected political move, China chose two skiers — Dinigeer Yilamujiang and Zhao Jiawen — to light the Olympic cauldron.
Dinigeer is a Uyghur, an ethnic minority in China’s western region of Xinjiang. On the other hand, Zhao is of Han decent, a dominant ethnicity in China. For years, China has been accused of massive human rights violations in Xinjiang, claiming the government is committing genocide against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.
Backing these claims, many Western nations including the United States, Australia, UK, Canada and India have boycotted the games. Last week, a coalition of more than 200 civil rights groups called for more nations to join this diplomatic boycott.
The shadows of international backlash and COVID-19 culminated in a simpler ceremony than during the iconic 2008 opening. The ceremony occurred in China’s National Stadium — sometimes refereed to as the Bird’s Nest — which was constructed for the 2008 games.
The games will last a little over two weeks with a formal closing on Feb. 20.