Snow Falling on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
With the motto “Together for a Shared Future,” the 24th Winter Olympics commenced with a declaration by Chinese President Xi Jinping on February 4, 2022. According to the Chinese Zodiac, this is the Year of the Tiger, which represents bravery, power and vitality. Hosting the Winter Olympics evokes great China-India cultural symbolism because the event coincides with both Spring Festival on February 1 according to the Chinese lunar calendar, and Basant Panchami on February 5, a traditional Hindu festival that also celebrates the arrival of spring.
Beijing is the first city around the world to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. A total of 2,871 athletes from 91 countries participated in 109 events over 15 disciplines in seven sports during the Beijing Winter Olympics. One of the highlights of Beijing 2022 was the inclusion of seven new events: women’s monobob, men’s and women’s freeski big air, mixed team snowboard cross, mixed team aerials, mixed team short track relay, and mixed team ski jumping. Most of the new events were added to enhance gender equality at the Winter Olympics. Female athletes made up 45 percent of all participants at the Beijing Winter Olympics, the highest percentage in the history of the Winter Olympics.
Two Olympic Games in 14 Years
Many have argued that history moves in spirals with many parallel situations reappearing over time. China became the first country to host a mega-sports event just as the West was reeling from the global financial crisis of 2008. Now in 2022, China is again hosting a mega-sports event as scheduled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is sending a message to the Chinese people and the world that China’s governance model is endeavoring to provide solutions to uniting nations and lifting morale in the post-COVID-19 world. In other words, the Games, some people may argue, showcase the strengths and advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics. However, in the wake of global challenges like climate change, COVID-19, anti-globalization, and the return of great power rivalry, the 2022 Winter Olympics might go down in the history of the modern Olympics dating back to 1896 as one of the most talked-about.
China has now accumulated sufficient experience in organizing a mega-sporting event with routine anti-pandemic measures. The entire event took place within a closed loop covering competition venues, living quarters, and other facilities. The Games also helped showcase the modern technological advancement of China through apps, 5G, and AI tools. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, in fact, has pledged to delivered a high-tech Games. China’s robot technology was in full swing during the Games. For example, robots served residents of the Olympic Village from kitchen to table and nicely reminded mask-neglecting visitors at the sports venues. The country also made digital RMB available to foreigners at the Olympic Village.
China also showcased low-carbon technology to facilitate a green Games that might set the standard for future Olympics. China reused many sports venues from the 2008 Beijing Olympics so that new construction activities were minimized. For the first time, all Olympic venues were powered by renewable energy, primarily solar and wind power. The power was sourced from the Zhangjiakou Renewable Energy Zone in Hebei Province, adjacent to Beijing, which is an emerging renewable energy hub in northern China.
India on the Sports Map
In India, cricket, a postcolonial benediction, has been a national obsession particularly after India won the 1983 Cricket World Cup in Lords, England. Ever since, it has been the de facto national sport of India. The dominance of cricket in India, however, is sometimes to the detriment of other sports, as reflected in India’s regular showings at the Olympics for decades.
Compared to the Summer Olympic Games, in which the country has participated for 25 times, India’s dabbling with the Winter Olympics has been relatively meager. Considering India is a sub-tropical country, affinity for winter sports is minimal. However, winter sports have gradually found a special niche in India. The snow-capped Himalayas, the lush wilderness, the serene ravines all give winter sports an alluring grandeur to Indians. Heli skiing, hang gliding, rock climbing, motor rallies, camel safaris, and ballooning are some common winter sports in India. India has sent 15 Winter Olympians to 10 Games so far. Beijing 2022 marked India’s 11th Winter Olympics appearance.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Khelo India Winter Games initiative in Gulmarg in 2020, aiming to make it an international hub for winter sports. Indian alpine skier Arif Khan’s appearance in the Winter Olympics gave it an extra boost. The first Indian to participate in two events at the same edition of the Winter Olympics said he aimed to “put Indian winter sports on the map at the Beijing Winter Olympics.” Many more young people in India will become inspired to participate in winter sports in the near future.
The author is an Indian freelance columnist. He received a Ph.D. in Sino-Indian relations from Delhi University and worked as an associate research fellow at the School of International Relations of Sun Yat-sen University from 2018 to 2019.