Beijing prepares for Winter Games despite corona: ‘We do what we can’

How exactly, they cant say that yet. But a year before the start of the Winter Olympics, the Beijing organization says it is ready. โ€œWe are preparing according to the original schedule,โ€ says Gao Ting, responsible for epidemic prevention around Beijing 2022.

Most of the facilities are ready. The same applies to the towers that form the heart of the Olympic village in Beijing. The first apartments, spacious to accommodate the paralympians afterwards, have already been completed.

โ€œ We have a total room for 2338 athletes here,โ€ says Shi Yan, responsible for building the village. โ€œBy the middle of this year, everything must be finished.โ€ Ice sports enthusiasts will move in here, snow sports enthusiasts will stay in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou further away.

Skating stadiums

โ€œ Come onโ€, gives birth to director Wu Xiaonan of the National Speed Skating Oval. Some of the stadiums that Beijing built for the Summer Games are reused at the Winter Games. This does not apply to the newly built skate stamp, which was pounded out of the ground in three years.

โ€œ We are now on the ground where the hockey stadium used to be, a stadium I was responsible for during the Summer Games,โ€ Wu laughs. โ€œThe battle between the Netherlands and China for the Olympic gold among hockey women is still fresh in my memory.โ€ A battle that was settled in favor of Orange.

โ€œ We use environmentally friendly cooling techniques,โ€ Wu points to the freshly delivered ice layer. Carbon dioxide is used for climate control. Apart from a handful of construction workers, its empty in the stadium, test matches havent been here yet.

The World Championships were moved from Beijing to Heerenveen, due to corona. But the director, who has appointed a Canadian ice master, believes that his ice will not be less than that of Calgary, Salt Lake City, or the lowland runway in Friesland. โ€œWe hope that the skaters will achieve good results here. Just like you in Heerenveenโ€, laughs Wu.

His stadium, also known as the Ice Ribbon, can accommodate up to 12,000 spectators. But the question is whether the situation around corona is so good that next year the stadium can be full again. Wu doesnt want to anticipate that yet.

โ€œ We are doing what we can and have been well prepared, including when it comes to epidemic prevention measures,โ€ says the optimistic skater. โ€œWe hope to be able to hold our test competitions later this year, and assume a bright future in which the golden slabs are fought.โ€

โ€œ We have seen President Xi inspected several Olympic venues,โ€ says Gao, asking what chances are that the games would have to be cancelled due to corona. Within China, new outbreaks have so far proved small and manageable.

Last month Xi Jinping visited the ski slopes in Zhangjiakou, the host of snow sports, the strongest signal to date that there can be no delay. To what extent athletes, staff and supporters should have negative test results or coronavaccins can Gao not yet say. โ€œIts really too early for that and the uncertainties are still too big,โ€ said the epidemic chief.

Boycott

Covid-19 is not the only dark cloud above Beijing 2022. More than 180 human rights organisations have called for a boycott of the Winter Games. They point to the human rights situation in Tibet, the repression of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and the restriction of freedoms in Hong Kong.

Whether and which countries will comply with such a boycott is still unclear. Foreigner Wang Wenbin called it โ€œwrongโ€ to politicize sport. โ€œThese so-called human rights organisations are politically driven when they link so-called human rights issues in China to the Beijing Olympics.โ€