The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are right around the corner, with all kinds of questions — about international politics, public health and, yes, even sports — hanging over them. So here’s what we know so far.
When are the Beijing Olympics?
The opening ceremony is scheduled for February 4, though some preliminary events will be held in the days before. The closing ceremony is February 20. In all, there will be 19 days of competition across 15 sports.
This year’s Paralympics, also based in Beijing, are scheduled for March 4-13.
Is there any chance the Games could be delayed, or even cancelled, because of the pandemic?
Anything is possible, but the International Olympic Committee and Olympic organisers in Beijing have gone out of their way to emphasise that the Games will go on as planned. Asked in early December whether he could envision a situation in which the Games had to be postponed, Juan Antonio Samaranch, a top Olympic official, was blunt. “The answer is no,” he said. “In a COVID world, you have to be flexible, and you have to be able to adapt rapidly to changing conditions. We have that in Beijing.”
The protocols will be similar to those at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, but more stringent. Organisers are creating what they’re calling a “closed-loop system” — also known as a bubble — in which thousands of athletes, coaches, team officials, Olympic staff members, contractors, volunteers and journalists will be confined for the duration of the Games. The bubble will include competition sites, hotels and other lodging for athletes, media facilities and a transportation network. No one else goes in; no one comes out.
Everybody at the Olympics will be required to be vaccinated. (Medical exemptions are available, but anyone who gets one will have to quarantine for an impractical 21 days before competing.) And once there, everyone will be tested every day.
Will any countries boycott the Games?
China’s record on human rights, including the abuse of Uyghur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang region and the suppression of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, has led activists around the world to call for countries and sponsors to boycott the Beijing Games.
The calls intensified in November with the disappearance from public life of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player and three-time Olympian, after she accused a former top government official of sexual assault.
But the possibility that any country boycotts the Beijing Olympics outright — that is, refuses to send its athletes to compete — feels remote. Instead, several countries, including Australia, the United States, Britain and Canada, have announced a “diplomatic boycott” of the Games, meaning their government officials will not attend any ceremonies or events.
“We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said about the decision.
What will happen if an athlete stages a protest — about human rights or anything else — during the Olympics?
“That is a hypothetical question,” an IOC spokesperson, Mark Adams, said when asked in early December, pointing out that athletes could express personal views in interviews during the Games and on social media.
The IOC loosened its rules around protests and political displays before the Tokyo Olympics last summer, allowing athletes to make symbolic gestures — raising a fist or taking a knee, for example — in the arenas before their competitions. (Protesting during medal ceremonies is still not allowed.)
But it remains to be seen what would happen if an athlete were to criticise, say, the Chinese government explicitly during the Games. “I think we have to wait for concrete examples,” Adams said.
Will fans be allowed to attend the events?
Most likely yes, but only in a limited capacity. Although fans were barred from venues in Tokyo last summer, organisers are hoping to allow at least some spectators from China to attend events in Beijing. Chinese officials have laid out strict rules to try to limit the spread of the virus, among them that spectators will be allowed to clap but not shout.
Overseas spectators will not be allowed to enter the country.
Will National Hockey League players be there?
No. That’s a reversal of plans announced in September that would have allowed the stars to head to Beijing while the league shut down for three weeks.
But with concerns rising about the omicron variant of the coronavirus, the league and its players union pulled out of the Games and may use the time in February to make up postponed NHL games.
The Olympic men’s hockey tournament will now most likely feature minor leaguers and those who play in other organisations.
How can I watch the Olympics?
The Seven Network will broadcast the Games in Australia.
What is the time difference with Beijing?
Beijing is 3 hours behind AEST.
Are there any new events?
There are seven additions to the program for the 2022 Olympics. The most compelling among them could be the monobob, a women’s solo bobsledding event.
These are the other events making their debut at the Games: freestyle skiing: Mixed team aerials; freestyle skiing: Men’s big air; freestyle skiing: Women’s big air; short-track speedskating: mixed team relay; ski jumping: mixed team event; and snowboarding: mixed team snowboard cross.
Who are the Beijing 2022 mascots?
After a global call for ideas, which attracted more than 5,800 submissions, the organizers of the Games unveiled Bing Dwen Dwen, a cuddly panda who wears a suit made of ice. Shuey Rhon Rhon, an anthropomorphic lantern, is the Beijing Paralympics mascot.
Where will the next Olympics take place?
The next Summer Olympics will be in Paris in 2024. The 2026 Winter Games will take place in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The Summer Games will then head to Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane, Australia, in 2032. The host of the 2030 Winter Games will be selected in 2023.
Source: The New York Times, smh.com.au, Photo: Getty Images