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Thread: Winter Olympics 2022

  1. #16
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    No political statements

    China warns foreign Olympic athletes that political statements during games 'subject to' punishment
    Peter Aitken
    Wed, January 19, 2022, 8:19 AM·2 min read
    China has warned foreign athletes they may face punishment for speech that is "against the Olympic spirit" following a similar warning from human rights activists who worry about public freedoms during the games.

    Yang Shu, deputy director general of international relations for the Beijing Organizing Committee (BOC), issued a clear warning that "Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected."

    "Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment," Yang stressed during a news conference Tuesday.

    Rule 50 of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter states that "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas," meaning that any political protest is subject to punishment at any of the games.

    China’s treatment of its Muslim-majority Uyghur people and polices toward Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan have come under increased scrutiny ahead of the Olympics. The country’s history of restrictive laws regarding public speech has raised concerns that the Beijing games could see greater punishments as "applicable local law" dictates what punishments any such protest would incur.

    "Chinese laws are very vague on the crimes they can use to prosecute people’s free speech," Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang said, citing potential offenses of provoking trouble or inciting subversion.

    Individuals who speak out in China face significant punishments: Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared from public view for two weeks following claims she made on social media platform Weibo that a former Beijing official had sexually assaulted her.


    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15: Shuai Peng of China reacts in her first round match against Eugene Bouchard of Canada during day two of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.(Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images) (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
    Swift public outcry and demands from western media led to a campaign of controlled appearances and media opportunities to show that Peng was "safe," but many believed that her movements and speech remained restricted during these times.

    And a Canadian cybersecurity group Citizen Lab reported Tuesday that the health-tracking smartphone app attendees must download has security flaws that included a list of political keywords and a feature to report "politically sensitive content."

    A member of the BOC said the group was "not aware" of the list and would look into the matter, The Washington Post reported.

    Zhao Lijian, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, also dismissed concerns that some countries, including the United States, advised athletes to bring burner phones with them to avoid surveillance by the Chinese government.

    Zhao said that countries "guilty of the charge themselves are accusing the innocent party without any evidence."

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.
    These are strange times so I can't see a total absence of statements.
    Gene Ching
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  2. #17
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    burner phones

    Because we all know from James Bond films that Olympians are often spies (especially the gymnasts)

    US athletes asked to use burner phones at Beijing Olympics amid surveillance
    JIGYASA PRASHARJANUARY 23, 2022
    TECH
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    According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee is advising athletes to discard their personal phones in favor of burners ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics in China (via Android Central). Last year, the warning was apparently sent out twice to athletes to warn them of the likelihood of being monitored online while in China. The alert adds that “any device, communication, transaction, and internet activity may be watched.” “Malicious software may have infiltrated your device(s), which could have a detrimental impact on future use.” According to the WSJ, athletes from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands have also been advised not to bring their personal electronics into the nation.


    Courtesy: Daballoti

    The Committee’s concerns are not without merit. China was captured illegally planting spyware on the phones of tourists entering from the Xinjiang province in 2019. The Uyghurs, a primarily Muslim ethnic group who have been imprisoned and tortured by China, live in this highly monitored neighborhood. Furthermore, Citizen Lab discovered that China’s My2022 Olympic app, which all guests must install, is riddled with security flaws that might lead to data leaks, surveillance, and hacking.

    The US Department of Homeland Security issued a similar warning for anybody travelling to China during the 2008 Summer Olympics, advising that bringing any gadgets could expose them to “unauthorized access and theft of data by criminal or foreign government forces.” This time, though, things are a little different because China has barred all foreign spectators owing to fears about COVID-19. Athletes will most likely use their mobile devices to communicate with friends and family, which could be more difficult on a burner phone with data, texting, and calling constraints.

    Even if the Olympic competitors wish to use their burner phones to browse the internet, they may not be able to do so without restrictions. China pledged unlimited internet access to spectators, media, and athletes during the 2008 Olympics, despite the fact that the Great Firewall of China currently censors a number of major websites in the nation, including Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, and others. China, on the other hand, did not appear to follow through on its pledge. Journalists stated that they were still unable to access specific websites, including BBC China, a number of Hong Kong publications, and Amnesty International’s website.

    China has stated once again that athletes and journalists will have unrestricted internet access, although it is unclear whether the regime will continue to ban some websites.
    Gene Ching
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  3. #18
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    Fraught

    NBC’s China Challenge: Politically Fraught Beijing Olympics Make Tokyo Look Tame
    Human rights abuses, geopolitics and unprecedentedly strict COVID-19 protocols are just some of the things NBC must balance during its coverage of the global sporting event — all while Olympics television ratings continue to decline.

    BY PATRICK BRZESKI, ALEX WEPRIN
    FEBRUARY 1, 2022 7:20AM

    A worker wearing a protective mask drives a forklift past the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, on January 3, 2022 in Beijing, China.
    NBC was presented with unprecedented challenges when covering the Tokyo summer Olympics amid COVID-19 but without spectators in the stands last year. But the U.S. Olympic TV partner is probably looking back almost wistfully on those comparatively straightforward Games as the politically fraught Beijing Winter Olympics rapidly approach on Feb. 4.

    The Chinese staging of the global sporting event, taking place amid a worldwide surge of the highly contagious omicron variant inside an authoritarian country bent on total elimination of the virus, is shaping up to be a precarious balancing act between business interests and journalistic integrity for the broadcasters that paid billions for this privilege.

    “NBC is basically in business with the International Olympic Committee and they have a clear interest in promoting the event; but at the same time, they are a news organization which makes claims to journalistic integrity — so it’s an odd place to be,” says Jules Boykoff, a professor at Pacific University who specializes in sports politics (and who also once played on the U.S. Olympic soccer team).

    In December, the Biden Administration announced that it would stage a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games because of China’s use of forced labor and concentration camps to suppress its Muslim minority population in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang — human rights abuses that the U.S. has declared a genocide. Since then, eight other U.S. allies, including Britain, Japan, Germany and Australia, have joined the largely symbolic boycott.

    For its part, NBC executives say they are going into the games clear-eyed, and expect to address human rights issues, China’s stifling of the press, and the pandemic, although as one would expect, that will be secondary to covering the sporting events themselves.

    “We are going to be focusing on telling the stories of Team USA and covering the competition. But the world, as we all know, is a really complicated place right now, and we understand that there are some difficult issues regarding the host nation,” Molly Solomon, the executive producer and president of NBC Olympics production, speaking during a press event Jan. 19. “So our coverage will provide perspective on China’s place in the world and the geopolitical context in which these Games are being held.”

    “I think it’s always important to remember that we have a record of not shying away from these topics,” Solomon added. “Not in 2008, the last time the Games were in China, in Sochi and PyeongChang. And most recently, we covered COVID and the athlete protests in Tokyo.”


    Members of Team Germany go through security after arriving at the Olympic Village ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on February 1, 2022 in Beijing, China.
    To that end, NBC has tapped Andy Browne, editorial director of the Bloomberg New Economy, as well as Jing Tsu, a Yale professor of China Studies, to join NBC’s team in Beijing and provide context on the host country.

    But that context may come with close scrutiny from the Chinese government itself.

    The host country’s actions closer to the Games themselves have raised alarm among onlookers, such as Beijing organizers’ requirement that all athletes download a smartphone app to monitor their health status — an app which researchers at the University of Toronto recently revealed contains a “devastating” security flaw that could allow surveillance of users’ data and messages. Several Olympic teams, including the U.S., U.K. and Canada, have advised their athletes to leave their personal devices at home and to use only “burner” phones while in China.

    A source at a U.S. news organization that is planning to have reporters cover the games told The Hollywood Reporter that they are advising their staff on the ground in Beijing to use burner phones as well.

    Of course, China’s strict COVID protocols, combined with security concerns, may also serve to hinder critical coverage by limiting the number of people even able to cover such news. For the first time, NBC will not have any announcers on-site in Beijing, instead having them call all the events from the company’s Olympics headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.

    While there will be studio hosts on-site in Beijing, and NBC News does have a Beijing bureau with some reporters able to report from the ground, China’s closed Olympics “loop” means that access to anyone outside of Olympics venues will be nonexistent, and even access to athletes and others inside the loop will be extraordinarily limited.

    NBC isn’t alone in cutting back on having people on the ground; ESPN also opted not to send any reporters to Beijing. “With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the COVID-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vp of event and studio production & executive editor.

    An ESPN source added to THR that the access their reporters would have had would be so limited that it simply wasn’t worth it.

    But the strict rules have already impacted NBC’s Olympics plans, which traditionally have included field reports from historic sights of the host country (In 2008, the Today show had live reports originating from the Great Wall). Even in Tokyo, NBC was able to have some reporters out of quarantine and able to report from the streets.

    “The late great Jim McKay said to me when I had begun hosting the Olympics and he had established the standard at ABC: ‘Remember, yes, it’s a sports event, but it’s a cultural panorama. It’s a travel log,’” NBC’s former Olympics host Bob Costas told CNN Jan. 23. “NBC has no ability under these circumstances to take people around China, to have people share in the emotion of cheering crowds and family. All of that is reduced.”
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  4. #19
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    Continued from previous

    Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic branding is displayed on the side of a brick building along the high-speed rail line from Beijing to Zhangjiakou Olympic zone, on February 1, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
    In this age of athlete empowerment, there also is the distinct possibility that some Olympic competitors will make political statements in Beijing in protest of China’s human rights record. China has warned of vague but chilling repercussions for such actions. “Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are subject to certain punishment,” Yang Shu, deputy director of international relations for the Beijing organizing committee, said at a press briefing in mid-January.

    NBC says it is preparing for such a possibility.

    “We plan to have reporters at all Beijing venues. If something happens, we’ll have our own cameras on site,” Solomon says. Ironically, by having so much coverage originate from Connecticut, NBC’s commentators may have more freedom to speak critically if such an event does occur.

    The IOC’s checkered history has meant that it’s almost de rigueur for an array of social concerns and criticism to be mounted prior to an Olympics opening ceremony. During an investor conference in the lead-up to the Tokyo Summer Games last year, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell noted how there were worries about traffic snarls ahead of the London Olympics and the Zika virus prior to the Rio Games. “And then once the Opening Ceremony happens, everybody forgets all that and enjoys the 17 days,” he added, emphasizing NBC’s interest in focusing on the sports.

    But there could be good reason that U.S. viewers expect a more critical stance and a closer look at the context this time around. In 2021, the Pew Research Center estimated that 67 percent of the U.S. population held negative feelings toward China, up from 42 percent back in 2008 during the lead-up to the Beijing Summer Olympics. At the same time, hardline policies towards China have become the exceedingly rare area of bipartisan consensus among U.S. politicians. Should NBC gloss over the broader circumstances of these games and focus solely on the sports and pageantry, the network would risk alienating a portion of its core audience, while also opening itself up to a hammering from hawks in Congress.

    Indeed, both Democratic and Republican members of Congress have already sent letters to NBC in the past few weeks, urging critical coverage of China, and asking questions about what influence, if any, China will have over NBC’s coverage.

    For its part, Discovery Inc., which holds the pan-European Olympic rights through its Eurosport subsidiary, has also pledged to engage with the broader issues while beaming its Olympics coverage from Beijing to Europe. Andrew Georgiou, the company’s president of sports, described human rights in China as a “massively important issue,” at a presentation in London on Jan. 24. “It is not a topic that we are going to shy away from, we are going to address it,” given that Discovery is “really focused on social justice issues,” he said.

    Many analysts believe that China feels it has less to prove to the world with the 2022 Winter Olympics than it did during the 2008 Summer Games, which were treated as a high-stakes coming out party proving that the country had arrived as a major power on the world stage. Given how much China’s geopolitical influence has grown since then, Beijing is expected to use these Games primarily as a showcase for its domestic populace, whose pride in China’s place the world is currently soaring but requires regular reassurance (particularly amid a slowdown in economic growth, as Xi Jingping prepares to accept an unprecedented third term as the country’s president later this year).

    In that case, China’s emphasis, as usual, will be on the total control and manipulation of the local media portrayal of the country’s handling of the Olympic moment. But what if NBC commentators — or athletes given air time in an international broadcast — make statements that are perceived within in China as beyond the pale — “an insult to China?”

    “I do think they expect that there will be some criticism that accompanies these Olympics, because it’s such a global moment,” notes Aynne Kokas, the author of the book Hollywood Made in China and a nonresident scholar in Chinese media at the Baker Institute of Public Policy at Rice University. “But if there is coverage that is perceived as very critical, or something that amounts to some kind of embarrassment for China, then there could be something like the asymmetric responses we have seen before.”
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  5. #20
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    continued from previous


    A worker skis past Olympic Rings at a slope in Genting Snow Park on February 1, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
    Examples of such responses include the reaction when Daryl Morey, then the general manager for the NBA’s Houston Rockets, put out a single, seven-word tweet voicing support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in 2019 (“Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”). Within days, the NBA — the most popular and profitable U.S. sporting league in China by far — was banned from broadcast in the country for a full year.

    An outsized payback against NBCUniversal for any perceived slight would be well within China’s reach, considering the revenue Universal Pictures generates in the country (F9: The Fast Saga was Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie there in 2021, earning $217 million) and that the parent company’s multi-billion-dollar Chinese theme park, Universal Studios Beijing, launched just last September.

    For an indication of how tricky the tightrope walk for U.S. businesses has become for these Olympics, consider the path taken by the event’s biggest multinational sponsors. After spending billions to align themselves with the event as top-tier sponsors, companies including Visa, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, have almost entirely abstained from running their usual Olympic-themed global marketing campaigns ahead of the opening ceremony. Coke, for example, is running an Olympic ad campaign only within China.

    And that advertising impact is being felt at NBC. A source at a media buying firm confirms that NBC has cut its Olympic ratings guarantee “significantly,” hoping to reduce the need for any potential make-goods if viewers don’t tune in. While it isn’t immediately clear why that decision was made, a lack of clear “star athletes” to feature may be at play, in addition to broader concerns about the host country. The primetime TV audience for the Olympics also has been in steady decline since the 2012 London Summer Games. The average primetime viewership for the Rio Olympics fell 18 percent in 2016, followed by a further 42 percent ratings slide during Tokyo Games last year.

    Dan Lovinger, the head of ad sales for NBC Sports, said Jan. 19 that the company was “trying to help our advertisers understand that all of the different narratives are in play here,” and suggested that by advertising during the games, sponsors were also helping the athletes, as well as his network.

    “While we wish that there was no diplomatic boycott, we certainly understand it. But a diplomatic boycott is really just that — it just means that our diplomats won’t be in Beijing. Our athletes will be there, and they’ll be excited to be there, and we’ll be there to bring the games to them,” Lovinger said. “And what’s really great for our advertisers to know is that our athletes need them … Their families live to help them train for the games; they get no financial support from our government, which is fine. So, they rely on the generosity of corporate America and some individuals to help them realize these dreams.”

    “So, when our advertisers decide to sit these Games out, it really hurts the athletes, because now they have to go compete with the Chinese and the Russians and athletes from other countries that already receive massive state funding,” Lovinger added.

    The critical role that the Olympics plays for NBC’s own ad sales revenue was underscored on Jan. 31, when Lovinger was elevated to a new role of president of advertising sales and partnerships, with a focus exclusively on the Olympics. NBCUniversal ad sales chairman Linda Yaccarino told staff Lovinger’s new role was because Olympics sponsorship and advertising was an “enormous opportunity and priority for our company,” one that would required a “dedicated leadership role” leading into the 2024, 2026 and 2028 games.

    “These are capitalist firms, not altruistic human rights organizations, so it’s not surprising that they would see all of the potential controversy and opt to keep their heads down,” adds Boycoff of the move by many marketers to maintain a lower profile and avoid speaking out on China’s abuses. “But NBC doesn’t really have that option.”


    Members of Team Norway walk towards their accommodation buildings as they arrive at the Olympic Village ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on February 1, 2022 in Beijing, China.
    And so the network will once again walk the tightrope, knowing the 2024 summer games in Paris, the 2026 winter games in Milan, and the 2028 Los Angeles games, will hopefully mark a return to simpler times, when the Today show can originate from, say, The Eiffel Tower or the Santa Monica Pier, and NBC News can focus most of its coverage on the sports, and not geopolitics.

    “The restrictions on press freedom and the sense that everyone there is being monitored in some way, we had that feeling in 2008 in Beijing, and I think if anything, it’s been ramped up now,” Costas said. “And it isn’t just NBC. Any network that broadcasts big sports events is simultaneously in a position, it’s quasi journalistic at best … you’re reporting an event, but you’re also promoting the event.”

    “NBC pays a huge rights fee, along with the production costs. They want people to watch it. It’s a centerpiece of the entire network strategy. At a time where everything is fractionalized, very few things draw huge audiences. The NFL does, the Super Bowl, the Olympics do,” he added. “It’s almost 24/7 Olympic stuff. You promote your other upcoming programs. All of that is diminished — it’s not gone, but it’s diminished under these circumstances.”
    It saddens me that our world is so divisive now that the games are so hampered.
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  6. #21
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    Emboldened

    Emboldened China opens Olympics, with lockdown and boycotts
    By SARAH DiLORENZO, Associated Press 8 hrs ago

    BEIJING (AP) — China, which used its first Olympics to amplify its international aspirations, invited the world back Friday — sort of — for the pandemic era’s second Games, this time as an emboldened and more powerful nation whose government’s authoritarian turn provoked some countries’ leaders into staying home.

    China's athletes Dinigeer Yilamujian and Zhao Jiawen prepare to light the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    © Provided by Associated Press Dancers perform during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
    Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the Games open during a ceremony heavy on ice-blue tones and winter imagery, held in the same lattice-encased Bird's Nest stadium that hosted the inaugural event of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

    Athletes Zhao Jiawen and Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a member of the country's Uyghur Muslim minority, delivered the final Olympic flame. The choice of Yilamujiang was steeped in symbolism: Critics say the Beijing government has abused and oppressed Uyghurs on a massive scale.

    With the flame lit, Beijing became the first city to host both winter and summer Games. And while some are staying away from the second pandemic Olympics in six months, many other world leaders attended the opening ceremony. Most notable: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met privately with Xi earlier in the day as a dangerous standoff unfolded at Russia’s border with Ukraine.


    © Provided by Associated Press Fireworks explode over the National Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
    International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach addressed assembled athletes: “Dear fellow Olympians: Your Olympic stage is set.”

    The pandemic also weighs heavily on this year’s Games, just as it did last summer in Tokyo. More than two years after the first COVID-19 cases were identified in China’s Hubei province, some 700 miles (1,100 km) south of Beijing, nearly 6 million human beings have died and hundreds of millions more around the world have been sickened.


    © Provided by Associated Press Chinese President Xi Jinping waves during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
    The host country itself claims some of the lowest rates of death and illness from the virus, in part because of strict lockdowns imposed by the government aimed at quickly stamping out outbreaks. Such measures instantly greeted anyone arriving to compete in or attend the Winter Games.


    © Provided by Associated Press Performers dance as part of the pre-show during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
    An Olympic opening ceremony typically provides the host nation a chance to showcase its culture, define its place in the world, flaunt its best side. That's something China in particular has been consumed with for decades. But at this year's Beijing Games, the gulf between performance and reality is shaping up to be particularly jarring.

    Fourteen years ago, a Beijing opening ceremony that featured massive pyrotechnic displays and thousands of card-flipping performers set a new standard of extravagance to start an Olympics that no host since has matched. It was a fitting start to an event often billed as China's “coming out.”

    Now, no matter how you view it, China has arrived — but the hope for a more open country that accompanied those first Games has faded.

    For Beijing, these Olympics are a confirmation of its status as world player and power. Yet for many outside China, particularly in the West, they have become a confirmation of the country’s embrace of more oppressive policies.

    Chinese authorities are crushing pro-democracy activism and tightening their control over Hong Kong, becoming more confrontational with Taiwan, and interning Uyghurs in the far west — a crackdown the U.S. government and others have called genocide.

    In protest of those actions, leaders of the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada, among others, imposed a diplomatic boycott on these Games, shunning appearances alongside Chinese leadership while still allowing their athletes to compete. But China came back with its own symbolic finger in the eye Friday, putting Yilamujiang in the opening night's most anticipated role.

    In the runup to the Olympics, China’s suppression of dissent was also on display in the controversy surrounding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. She disappeared from public view last year after accusing a former Communist Party official of sexual assault. Her accusation was quickly scrubbed from the internet, and discussion of it remains heavily censored.
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  7. #22
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    continued from previous post


    © Provided by Associated Press The Olympic Stadium is lit prior to the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
    In the shadow of those political issues, China put on its show. As Xi took his seat, the performers turned toward him and repeatedly bowed. A simultaneous cheer went up as they raised their pom poms toward their president — China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, who established the People's Republic in 1949. A barrage of fireworks, including some that spelled out “Spring,” announced that the festivities were at hand.


    © Provided by Associated Press Apostolos Angelis and Maria Ntanou, of Greece, lead their team in during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
    A line of people dressed in costumes representing China's varied ethnicities passed the national flag to the pole where it was raised — a show of unity the country often puts on as part of its narrative that its wide range of ethnic groups live together in peace and prosperity.

    But politics still elbowed its way into the proceedings. The parade of athletes from Taiwan — the island democracy that China says belongs to it but that competes separately as “Chinese Taipei” — was greeted with a cheer from the crowd, as were the Russian competitors. An overcoated Putin stood and waved at the delegation, nodding crisply as they marched.


    © Provided by Associated Press Athletes from Finland arrive during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
    The stadium was relatively full, though by no means at capacity, after authorities decided to allow a select group to attend events.

    As with any Olympics, attention will shift Saturday — at least partially — from the geopolitical issues of the day to the athletes themselves.

    All eyes turn now to whether Alpine skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin, who already owns three Olympic medals, can exceed sky-high expectations. How snowboard sensation Shaun White will cap off his Olympic career — and if the sport’s current standard-bearer, Chloe Kim, will wow us again. And whether Russia’s women will sweep the medals in figure skating.

    And China is pinning its hopes on Eileen Gu, the 18-year-old, American-born freestyle skier who has chosen to compete for her mother’s native country and could win three gold medals.

    As they compete, the conditions imposed by Chinese authorities offer a stark contrast to the party atmosphere of the 2008 Games. Some flight attendants, immigration officials and hotel staff have been covered head to toe in hazmat gear, masks and goggles. There is a daily testing regimen for all attendees, followed by lengthy quarantines for all those testing positive. And there is no passing from the Olympic venues through the ever-present cordons of chain-link fence — covered in cheery messages of a “shared future together” — into the city itself.

    China itself has also transformed in the years since its first Games. Then, it was an emerging global economic force making its biggest leap yet onto the global stage. Now it is a burgeoning superpower. Xi, who was the head of the 2008 Olympics, now runs the entire country and has encouraged a personality-driven campaign of adulation.

    Three decades after its troops crushed massive democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds and perhaps thousands of Chinese, the government locked up an estimated 1 million members of minority groups, mostly Uyghurs, in mass internment camps. The situation has led human rights groups to dub these the “Genocide Games.”

    China says the camps are “vocational training and education centers” that are part of an anti-terror campaign and have closed. It denies any human rights violations.

    Outside the Olympic “bubble” that separates regular Beijingers from Olympians and their entourages, thousands of people, bundled in winter jackets, gathered west of the stadium hoping for a distant glimpse of the fireworks, but they were pushed back by police.

    Elsewhere in the city, others expressed enthusiasm and pride at the world coming to their doorstep. Zhang Wenquan, a collector of Olympic memorabilia, said Friday that he was excited, but that was tempered by the virus that has changed so much for so many.

    “I think the effect of the fireworks is going to be much better than it in 2008,” Zhang said. “I actually wanted to go to the venue to watch it. ... But because of the epidemic, there may be no chance.”
    Despite the global chaos and controversy, I hope the Games are a success.
    Gene Ching
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  8. #23
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    Closing

    Beijing’s Olympics Close, Ending Safe But Odd Global Moment
    The terrarium of a Winter Games that has been Beijing 2022 came to its end Sunday, capping an unprecedented Asian Olympic trifecta and sending the planet's most global sporting event off to the West for the foreseeable future.
    BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

    FEBRUARY 20, 2022 8:25AM

    The Olympic Cauldron and rings are seen as performers dance during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Beijing National Stadium on Feb. 20. MAJA HITIJ/GETTY IMAGES)

    A pile of figure-skating rubble created by Russian misbehavior. A new Chinese champion — from California. An ace American skier who faltered and went home empty-handed. The end of the Olympic line for the world’s most renowned snowboarder. All inside an anti-COVID “closed loop” enforced by China’s authoritarian government.

    The terrarium of a Winter Games that has been Beijing 2022 came to its end Sunday, capping an unprecedented Asian Olympic trifecta and sending the planet’s most global sporting event off to the West for the foreseeable future, with no chance of returning to this corner of the world until at least 2030.

    It was weird. It was messy and, at the same time, somehow sterile. It was controlled and calibrated in ways only Xi Jinping’s China could pull off. And it was sequestered in a “bubble” that kept participants and the city around them — and, by extension, the sporadically watching world — at arm’s length.

    On Sunday night, Xi and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach stood together as Beijing handed off to Milan-Cortina, site of the 2026 Winter Games. “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” kicked off a notably Western-flavored show with Chinese characteristics as dancers with tiny, fiery snowflakes glided across the stadium in a ceremony that, like the opening, was headed by Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

    Unlike the first pandemic Olympics in Tokyo last summer, which featured all but empty seats at the opening and closing, a modest but energetic crowd populated the seats of Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” stadium. It felt somewhat incongruous — a show bursting with color and energy and enthusiasm and even joy, the very things that couldn’t assert themselves inside China’s COVID bubble.

    “We welcome China as a winter sport country,” Bach said, closing the Games. He called their organization “extraordinary” and credited the Chinese and their organizing committee for serving them up “in such an excellent way and a safe way.”

    By many mechanical measures, these Games were a success. They were, in fact, quite safe — albeit in the carefully modulated, dress-up-for-company way that authoritarian governments always do best. The local volunteers, as is usually the case, were delightful, helpful and engaging, and they received high-profile accolades at the closing.

    There was snow — most of it fake, some of it real. The venues — many of them, like the Bird’s Nest and the Aquatic Center, harvested from the 2008 edition of the Beijing Olympics — performed to expectations. One new locale, Big Air Shougang, carved from a repurposed steel mill, was an appealingly edgy mashup of winter wonderland and rust-belt industrial landscape.

    TV ratings were down, but streaming viewership was up: By Saturday, NBC had streamed 3.5 billion minutes from Beijing, compared to 2.2 billion in South Korea in 2018.

    There were no major unexpected logistical problems, only the ones created deliberately to stem the spread of COVID in the country where the coronavirus first emerged more than two years ago.

    And stemmed it seemed to be. As of Saturday, the segregated system that effectively turned Beijing into two cities — one sequestered, one proceeding very much as normal — had produced only 463 positive tests among thousands of visitors entering the bubble since Jan. 23. Not surprisingly, the state-controlled media loved this.

    “The success in insulating the event from the virus and keeping disruption to sports events to a minimum also reflected the effectiveness and flexibility of China’s overall zero-COVID policies,” the pro-government Global Times newspaper said, citing epidemiologists who say “the COVID-19 prevention experience accumulated from this Olympics can also inspire Chinese cities to adjust their policies.”

    Look deeper, though, and a different story emerges about these Games.

    Internationally, many critiqued them as the “authoritarian Olympics” and denounced the IOC for holding them in concert with a government accused of gross human rights violations against ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans in its far west and harsh policies against Hong Kong democracy activists off its southeastern coast. Several Western governments boycotted by not sending any official delegations, though they sent athletes.

    For its part, China denied such allegations, as it typically does, and featured a Uyghur as part of its slate of Olympic torch-carriers for the opening ceremony Feb. 4.

    And then, of course, there were the Russians. And doping. Again.

    The 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for using a banned heart medication. The result wasn’t announced by anti-doping officials until after she’d won gold as part of the team competition, even though the sample was taken weeks earlier.

    The Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared her to compete in the individual discipline, ruling that as a minor she had protected status. But Valieva, although heavily favored to win, fell several times during her free skate routine, landing her fourth place and prompting a cold reception from her embattled coach, Eteri Tutberidze.

    “Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance,” Bach said the next day, proclaiming his outrage.

    Valieva’s Russian teammates took gold and silver, but on a night of drama, even the winners were in tears. The affair produced one possible legacy for Beijing: Valieva’s ordeal has inspired talk of raising the minimum age for Olympic skaters from 15 to 17 or 18.

    American skier Mikaela Shiffrin also came to Beijing with high expectations, only to see them dashed when she failed to finish three races. She left without any medal at all. In an image to remember, the TV cameras captured Shiffrin sitting dejectedly on the snow, head in hands, for several minutes.

    The 2022 Games were controversial from the moment the IOC awarded them to Beijing, the frequently snowless capital of a country without much of a winter sports tradition. Almaty, Kazakhstan, was the only other city in play after four other bids were withdrawn due to lack of local support or high cost.

    Geopolitical tensions also shadowed these Games, with Russia’s buildup of troops along its border with Ukraine spurring fears of war in Europe even as the “Olympic Truce” supposedly kicked in. In the closing, Bach said athletes “embraced each other even if your countries are divided by conflict,” an apparent reference to a hug captured on camera between a Russian athlete and a Ukrainian one.

    China swelled with pride, and its social media swelled with comments, as Eileen Gu, an America-born freestyle skier who chose to compete for China, her mother’s native country, became an international superstar. Her three medals — two gold, one silver — set a new record for her sport, and adulation for Gu literally broke the Chinese internet at one point, briefly crashing the servers of Sina Weibo, the massive Twitter-like network.

    And Chinese snowboarder Su Yiming, a former child actor, won over the home crowd with a dominant gold medal big air performance.

    Other moments to remember from Beijing 2022:

    — With a nearly perfect free skate and a record-setting short program, the 22-year-old figure skater Nathan Chen became the first American gold medalist in his sport since 2010.
    — Snowboarding’s best known rider, Shaun White, called it a career after finishing fourth in the halfpipe in his fifth Olympics, passing the torch to athletes like Su and the halfpipe gold medalist, Japan’s Ayumu Hirano.
    — American boarder and social media figure Chloe Kim won the gold in halfpipe for the second time, adding to her 2018 medal from Pyeongchang.
    — Norway, a country whose total population of 5 million is less than one half of one percent of the host country’s, led the medal count, as it often does. Russia was second, followed by Germany, Canada and the United States.

    These third straight Games in Asia, after Pyeongchang in 2018 and the delayed Tokyo Summer Games six months ago, were also the second pandemic Games. And the 16,000 athletes and other international visitors who spent the entire time segregated from the host city behind tall chain-link fences couldn’t help but see the countless signs trumpeting unremitting iterations of the Olympic slogan: “Together for a Shared Future.”

    But for much of these austere and distant Games, wintry not only in their weather but in their tenor itself, a post-pandemic shared future — the hug-and-harmony variety that the Olympics builds its entire multinational brand around — seemed all but out of reach.
    See you in Milano Cortina in 2026
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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