After 2008, 2022: Beijing will become the first city on Friday to organize the Summer and Winter Olympics and thus enter Olympic history in a heavy context, between Covid, diplomatic tensions and controversy.
As in 2008, Beijing’s amazing National Stadium, better known by the nickname of “Bird nest”will be from 8:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m. Paris time) the setting for the opening ceremony of the 2022 Olympics.
Like fourteen years ago, this show was conceived by the Chinese director Zhang Yimouauthor in 2008 of a breathtaking patriotic and colorful celebration, featuring 14,000 extras, dancers and acrobats, under a profusion of fireworks and special effects.
Unsurprisingly, Zhang Yimou promised a show “completely innovative”while acknowledging that he had to take into account the winter temperatures (-6°C announced) and the epidemic threat to design his ceremony which should bring together this time “only” 3,000 artists, the vast majority of whom are teenagers.
As tradition dictates, the 24th Winter Olympics in history will not officially begin until Chinese President Xi Jinping declares them. “open” according to the established formula. But for the rest, the scenario of the ceremony like the identity of the last, or the last, bearer(s) of the flame which will set the Olympic cauldron ablaze, are protected as state secrets.
The second games under Covid
Due to the epidemic, these second Olympic Games under Covid, after those in Tokyo last summer, will find it difficult to be a party.
Athletes are confined in a health bubble and subjected to daily screenings. As Beijing observes a zero Covid strategy, no contact is authorized with the population and if the stands of the competition sites will be partially filled, they will be filled by “guests”who must observe social distancing.
Among the spectators of the opening ceremony boycotted by several Western countries, led by the United States, in order to denounce human rights violations in China, some twenty world leaders, including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Vladimir Putin.
The Russian president will take advantage of his visit to Beijing to meet Xi Jinping, his “Dear friend”for a summit where the two leaders will highlight their “common vision” in international security.
Vladimir Putin and Russia are the center of international attention. The Kremlin is accused by the West of wanting to launch an invasion of Ukraine, pointing to the approximately 100,000 Russian soldiers deployed for weeks on the border of its pro-Western neighbor.
In this tense context, the Ukrainian government asked its representatives in Beijing not to fraternize with the Russians.
Demonstrations to denounce human rights violations in China
Thousands of kilometers from Beijing, Lausanne (Switzerland), half a thousand Tibetans demonstrated on Thursday in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to denounce the “Games of Shame”Beijing’s stranglehold on the Himalayan region and religious and cultural repression.
AT Los Angeles (United States), about fifty demonstrators gathered in front of the Chinese consulate and throughout the world, calls for demonstrations were launched to denounce also the violations of human rights in Xinjiang (northwest ), against the Uyghurs, Turkic Muslim ethnicity.
The environmental impact also pointed out
Another controversy, that on the environmental impact of these Games which are disputed in a semi-arid climate, on artificially snow-covered slopes in oversized ski resorts for the occasion.
“Today we can say it: China is a country of winter sports”however, assured the IOC President on Thursday, Thomas Bach.
No Olympic fervor in Beijing, but a mixture of impatience and pride among the population: “I would like the last 24 hours to pass quickly”assures Zhang Tao, met by AFP on Thursday evening. “These are different Olympics, because there is still the Covid (…) I hope that these Games will dispel the sadness of the Covid”insists this property manager.
The approximately 2,900 athletes competing, who covet a total of 109 Olympic titles, are trying somehow to keep in mind that the Olympics remain a rare event in a career.
“I’m on the site for the competition”insisted Alexis Pinturaultone of the great French chances in alpine skiing, four years after the 15 medals of the 2018 Olympics.
“We had to ask ourselves the question before, when the Games were awarded”, he swept about the environmental controversy. As if to remind that the main actors of this Beijing fortnight did not have to wash whiter than their heads of state and leaders.