The Beijing 2022 Olympics has come to an end and the road it has traveled has been bumpy, with countless events of uproar, controversy and burning questions for the International Olympic Committee. The efforts to apply technology and expensive solutions are also highlighted, with the sad stories behind it. This Olympics has presented the most rigorous tests for the Olympic brand.
Due to a series of consecutive unfortunate events, from an unfavorable start, the tragic image that the opening ceremony was based on, to a number of democratic countries calling out for human rights on the opening day, all sort of irregularities during competitions, and great environmental damage; the Games will be remembered as “the self-created chaos Olympics.”
A diplomatic boycott was a bad start for the strictly controlled Beijing 2022 Olympics. Although the Chinese regime strongly criticized the countries which joined the diplomatic boycott, arguing that these countries are politicizing sports, it is the regime who used to completely boycott the Olympics for a long time, also for political reasons.
The Chinese Communist Regime (CCP) has been criticized with alleged human rights abuses, including the suppression of the Muslim Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region, and the uncertain situation of the tennis star Peng Shuai who accused a former top official of the CCP with sexual assault in social media.
The U.S. was the first country to raise the idea and had great influence on the announcement of the diplomatic boycott, but it was Lithuania the first country to confirm the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics on December 3 last year. Vilnius and Beijing have had a troublesome relationship in the past, triggered by Lithuania’s public support for an autonomous Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.
Almost immediately after that, on Dec. 6 2021, the Biden administration announced that they would not send an official U.S. delegation to the Olympics. The White House cited “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang” as reasons for the boycott.
On Dec. 8, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government decided to join the boycott. On the same day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced that they would not send any officials or diplomatic representatives to the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games, followed by Belgium, Denmark, Estonia.
New Zealand, Austria, Slovenia, Sweden, and the Netherlands also announced they would not send government officials to China, but did not call it a diplomatic boycott, but mainly due to factors related to Covid19. Two days before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he had no intention of going to Beijing for the Olympics.
India decided to join the boycott at the last minute before the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, after China let a regiment commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who had received military honors for the Galwan clashes (the violent encounter with Indian troops), carry the torch for the Winter Olympics Games in Beijing.
“It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicize an event like Olympic,” said Arindam Bagchi, the official Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, India. He added: “The Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of India in Beijing will not be attending the opening or closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.” The Indian TV sports channel Doordarshan did also not broadcast Olympic ceremonies as previously planned.
The incident that led to India’s reaction is one of the examples that makes the argument against the “politicization of sports” of the Chinese government not convincing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has repeatedly denied the Biden administration’s human rights accusations saying they are “completely groundless and do not reflect the truth”. “Politicizing sport is against the Olympic spirit and harms the interests of athletes from all countries,” Zhao said.
However, it is China who has taken actions like appointing a Uyghur athlete, and the PLA commander, who was considered as meritorious in the border conflict with the Indian, as the torchbearers.
Furthermore, the Chinese government seems to have forgotten that in 1952, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to invite both Chinese and Taiwanese teams, sparked political conflicts and the CCP boycott of the Games for decades. They didn’t send their team to the Olympics until the 1980 Lake Placid games. In the Chinese government’s memory and dictionary, perhaps it wasn’t an act of politicizing the sport even though it was the result of a political conflict between the People’s Republic of China on Mainland and the Republic of China on Taiwan.
The ‘mistaken’ message in the Opening Ceremony
Aside from the arduousness on the road to the Olympic opening ceremony, there is a “mistaken” message that degrades the quality of the opening ceremony itself.
The opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics was directed by Mr. Zhang Yimou, with the performance full of “snow flower” elements, culminating in a scene of a huge snowflake.
“This is a thorough image that we painstakingly designed, where each snowflake, each country and region gathers in Beijing, and altogether creates the most brilliant snowflake.” In an interview with the Chinese media, Zhang Yimou used the line “The snowflakes of Mount Yan are big as mats (wrapping everything up)” in the poem “North wind” by the poet Li Bai, to explain the opening ceremony performances of the Winter Olympics.
At the same time during the live coverage of the opening ceremony, the host of China’s central broadcaster CCTV also read two lines of this poem by Li Bai: “The snowflakes of Mount Yan are big as mats; Sheet after sheet blown down upon Xuanyuan Terrace”. Xuanyuan Terrace is the name of the mound which is said to be the birthplace of Emperor Xuanyuan. The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, also quoted the above verse.
Nevertheless, as many Chinese people and a professor of Chinese descent Zhang Tianliang have pointed out, this poem describes the painful and indignant lament of a wife in Youzhou missing her husband who died in a battlefield. The husband died at the border but there was no one to bury him, the bones were exposed in the wild, and the wife ‘hoped’ that the snow flowers in Yen Son mountain could… make a mat for her husband’s body too. Therefore, the meaning and context of the poem is extremely sad.
The poet Li Bai borrowed these words from the Youzhou woman to condemn the king at that time who wanted to do great things to gain great credit, so he blindly believed in the border generals, and for many years continuously devoted all his forces to cause trouble and wars, causing suffering to the people. This image inadvertently made many people question the effort to host a monumental and expensive Olympics.
Yet, the unhappy stories of the opening day did not stop here.
International moves on the opening day
On February 4, the opening day of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the House of Commons of the British Parliament voted on two amendments to The Human Tissue Act 2004, accusing the CCP of committing crimes against humanity such as forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners and the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang. The two amendments aim to prevent British citizens from complicity in forced organ harvesting, by ensuring that British nationals do not travel to countries like China for organ transplants, and to stop the exhibition showing corpses from China.
On the same day, the French parliament issued a notice to discuss and vote on a bill against human organ trafficking, requiring France’s health and medical research agencies to check whether non-European partners have respected the moral codes of France or not.
The sponsor of the bill, Frédérique Dumas, said that, in most countries, organs of unknown origin come from the illegal trade of illegal organizations, but in China, this crime is perpetrated by the CCP. The bill cites the work of the veteran investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann, who estimates that between 25,000 and 50,000 young Uyghurs have their organs harvested each year.
AFP reported that the bill was rejected. Coincidentally, however, the date is the same as the official opening day of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Moreover, this debate once again brought the CCP’s human rights issue to light and attracted public attention.
Around the opening ceremony of the Olympics, a series of other incidents also drew attention to the CCP’s human rights issue.
In the United States, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives
Nancy Pelosi attended the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC), hearing on the “Beijing Olympics and Aspects of Oppression”.
Ms. Pelosi again criticized Beijing’s crackdown on human rights, which continues to expand, and urged athletes not to risk speaking out, because this could anger Beijing’s tyranny and therefore is dangerous for the athletes themselves and their families.
In Germany, a very rare event also happened. The commentators of Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen turned the opening ceremony commentary into a special moment to denounce Beijing. For example, when the camera showed Xi Jinping and IOC President Thomas Bach, presenter Ulf Röller pointed out that Xi and Bach treasure each other very much. Bach has the Olympic Games in his hands and Xi Jinping has power and money, so the two “happen to hold the same view”.
In Prague, the capital of Czech, human rights victims and activists, including Falun Gong practitioners persecuted in China for more than 20 years, gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy in Prague to protest against China’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Participants said the protests were meant to expose China’s human rights abuses, and it was absurd for the world to allow the Chinese regime that has committed genocide and crimes against humanity to host the Winter Olympics.
Earlier, at 12 am (GMT) on January 28, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported, a joint statement of 243 human rights organizations declaring that the 2022 Olympics will open “amid atrocity crimes and other grave human rights violations by the Chinese government”.
The statement draws attention to the persecution of Uyghurs, Tibetans, ethnic groups and religious followers from all independent faith groups, as well as the persecution of human rights activists, feminist activists, lawyers, journalists and others.
Besides the above outstanding activities, protests against the Olympics took place continuously in many parts of the world such as Taiwan, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Japan… before and during the opening ceremony in Beijing.
Olympic Diplomacy: Benefits and Oddities
When Chinese media reported the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on the evening of February 4, the name of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape was listed; however, it was later confirmed that when Mr. Marape arrived in Beijing on February 3, he tested positive for Covid.
It seems that the Chinese authorities, in order to generate impressive numbers, despite Marape’s test results, still allowed him to continue to participate in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics; or the reports by the Chinese media have lied openly.
A week before the Olympics, on January 25, Xi Jinping hosted a video summit in Beijing to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and five Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan.
At the summit, Mr. Xi Jinping mentioned that China is willing to open its market to Central Asian countries and will import more goods from Central Asian nations; China plans to provide 1,200 government scholarships to these five Central Asian nations over the next five years.
In addition, Xi Jinping also announced that “China will provide free support of 500 million USD to Central Asian countries in the next 3 years”.
The heads of state from the five Central Asian countries all said they were eagerly looking forward to attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics in China the week after that.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has also promised a series of major investments in Latin American countries at the Beijing Winter Olympics. While nullifying the diplomatic boycott of the US and Western countries, China is using it as an opportunity to expand its influence in the ‘America’s backyard’.
According to the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the CCP, during a meeting with Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on February 6, President Xi said: “Let’s promote the establishment of a forum for the Community of China – Latin America nations, and jointly build a China-Latin Community of Common Destiny”.
Immediately after the summit, Argentina’s President, Fernandez, mentioned the “Great news” on his Twitter account and said: “We have attracted more than 23 billion dollars from Chinese investment for different projects.” Known for his tendency towards leftist politics, on the morning of the 5th, Mr. Fernandez visited Chairman Mao Memorial Hall in Tiananmen Square, where Mao Zedong’s body was buried, and stood in silence with his hands clasped in front of his stomach. On the same day, the Argentine Presidential Palace published an image of President Fernandez laying a wreath in front of the statue of Mao Zedong in the front room of the Memorial House, and an image of him stepping out from the stage, via its official Twitter account.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, a former tycoon with center-right political tendencies, also receives many gifts from China. On the 6th, President Lasso mentioned the outcome of the negotiations on his Twitter, saying, “We have decided to start a formal meeting to resolve the debt issue and China has donated 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for 3-5 years old children”.
From the 25th of last month to the 6th of this month, Mr. Xi met a total of 20 top leaders of different countries and representatives of different international organizations.
The most special is Xi’s meeting with the Russian President Putin. It was noticed that when Mr. Putin entered the reception hall during his meeting with Mr. Xi, he did not shake hands with Mr. Xi as warmly as usual. What’s even more bizarre is that Putin didn’t show up at the party hosted by Xi Jinping the next day.
On February 6, Mr. Vladislav Kitayev, Chief of Presidential Protocol of Russia, gave an explanation why there was no handshake during the meeting between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin. In an interview with a television station, he said that there is no political element in this matter, and that this request comes from the Chinese side, and this is a measure to avoid the danger caused by the new coronavirus. Obviously, the concern comes from Beijing and not Moscow, who was just cooperating. While the Chinese government continuously promotes its anti-epidemic achievements and exaggerates the horror of the epidemic in the West, Beijing’s move is easy to associate with a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of the epidemic prevention measures, as well as fear of the virus.
According to the mainland press, during President Putin’s visit, relevant departments and businesses of the two sides signed a total of 15 cooperation documents related to at least three important areas. First, Russia will supply 100 million tons of oil to China within 10 years. The second is to increase Russia’s natural gas exports to China by 25%, to 48 billion cubic meters per year. Third, all regions of Russia can supply China with wheat and barley.
These three agreements have significantly eased the Western sanctions pressure on Russia. It is especially noteworthy that during the meeting, Putin asked to pay the price of natural gas in euros, which was supposed to help him strengthen his bargaining in negotiations with Europe, but for Xi Jinping, who has always wanted to promote the globalization of the renminbi, it can be seen as a “a bucket of cold water”.
Right from the first week of the Olympics, a series of controversies broke out, most of which were caused by the Chinese side creating chaos and receiving negative publicity.
On the opening night of the Olympics, when the Dutch media outlet NOS Journaal was broadcasting live in Beijing, Chinese “red armband” staff suddenly forced the reporter to leave the venue by grabbing, pushing and yelling at him.
Reporters at the scene were stunned and explained in Chinese that he was broadcasting live, but they could not escape such unreasonable and brutal repression.
“Red armbands” are common in mainland China and journalists suffer these type of abuses regularly, but in the eyes of Westerners, they do not have the right to oppress others. The CCP should not think that “red armbands” are ordinary and can appear shamelessly on the opening day of the Olympics like that.
Another strange situation was how the CCP arranged for Peng Shuai to reappear publicly during the Games. Although the Peng Shuai incident is not over, the news has become less widespread, and the Chinese government continues silent and keeps a low profile in this regard. Nevertheless, they changed their approach and actively promoted the tennis star appearance during the Winter Olympics.
On February 7, Peng Shuai had an exclusive interview with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe. She said that she had met IOC president Thomas Bach, and announced her retirement. She again denied that Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her, and affirmed she did not disappear.
However, the conditions for Peng Shuai to accept the interview that China arranged can tell a lot. L’Equipe said they had to satisfy 3 things:
First, the questions raised by L’Equipe were sent to the Chinese side in advance. Second, Peng Shuai could only answer in Chinese—though she is fluent in English—as a Chinese Olympic Committee official would translate everything. Third, L’Equipe could only report according to Peng Shuai’s word-for-word answers without any adjustments, omissions or further explanations.
Also, there were a number of serious irregularities during the competition. The Wall Street Journal reported on February 11 that the Olympic motto “faster, higher, stronger” has become “sader, silent and scary” in Beijing. Various events at the Beijing Winter Olympics raised suspicions that Beijing has been doing everything to “remove” other athletes to prevent them from winning medals.
A dispute caused anti-China sentiment to increase sharply in a neighboring country. “Let the host country China take all the medals, let the host country China take all the medals …”, on February 7, the Seoul Shinmun newspaper only published such a sentence repeating 10 lines in an article. At the beginning of each stanza is a similar sentence, expressing the anger of the Korean people at China’s actions during the Winter Olympics.
In the semi-finals of the men’s 1000m short track speed skating, South Korean players Hwang Dae-heon and Lee June-seo placed first and second in their group, respectively, but the referee canceled the result arguing that both had fouls and two Chinese athletes took their place. In the final, the Chinese athletes won gold and silver medals respectively. Previously, Hwang Dae-heon of South Korea was considered a strong contender for the championship.
The Korean Sports Association held a press conference at the main media center of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb. 8, saying that it had appealed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the unfair sanction against the Korean athletes, and claimed that the referees were “biased”. A letter of protest had also been submitted to the International Skating Union (ISU) and a lawsuit had been filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). However, the ISU rejected the complaint from Korea.
In addition, officials from Finland, Germany, Belgium, Poland and Russia said their athletes had experienced “nightmares” in the so-called quarantine hotels in Beijing, like the poor Internet connection or even no Internet at all, poor quality food, insufficient portions, and no exercise equipment. The lack of access to exercise equipment or the difficulty in communicating with the team made things difficult for athletes who are trying to perform their best before the Games.
CNN reported on Feb. 9 that the Beijing Olympic Village was receiving more and more complaints about the food. Athletes, media and other employees have posted on social media about the restaurant’s poor quality and food variety.
Russian passing athlete Valeria Vasnetsova lamented when she tested positive for Covid-19 that the food in the isolation ward in Beijing was poor, the same food for 5 days was unbearable. She couldn’t stand it and had a stomachache, was even crying everyday.
German alpine skiing coach Christian Schwaiger criticized: “Olympic food is very questionable because it’s not a meal at all. There are no hot food, only fries, some kind of nuts and chocolate, nothing else”.
A match between the Chinese team and the Japanese team also damaged the image of the Olympic Games. During the women’s ice hockey match on Feb. 6, the anti-Japanese song called “Protecting the Yellow River” was played on the field, causing controversy among Japanese public opinion. Netizens also reminded that politics were supposed to be left out of the Games, and the question is: Should politics appear in the Olympics or not? But this time the one who has to answer is China.
Weather forecast ‘100m, 10 minutes’ and artificial snow
The Chinese government has made great efforts to make the best possible impression for the Winter Olympics when investing in the development of the “100 meters, 10 minutes” weather forecast project a few years ago.
People Daily Online, the English-language newspaper of the Chinese government, published an article on Feb. 17 titled “Applications of sci-tech achievements at Winter Olympics reflect China’s strength to a build bright future with the world”. According to the article, “the accurate weather forecast system featuring a 10-minute follow-up cycle and a 100-meter resolution has guaranteed the smooth running of competitions in the mountains of the Yanqing competition zone”.
In 2018, China launched a particularly important study on “Key Technology for Forecasting Weather Conditions and Securing the Winter Olympics,” with the participation of universities, research institutes and social enterprises.
The project uses Artificial Intelligence and it took 4 years to build 441 sets of modern three-dimensional detection vehicles in Beijing, Yanqing, Chongli and surrounding areas, according to Ji Chongping, chief engineer of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau.
The Central Meteorological Department and the meteorological bureaus of surrounding provinces and cities formed groups to forecast the weather for the matches during the Winter Olympics. The organizer’s forecasting team conducted on-site forecasting training in the competition area for 5 consecutive winters, which they called “Five years to sharpen a sword”.
But after spending a lot of time, money and effort to ensure the smooth progress of the Winter Olympics, the way Chinese government’s response to the flood disaster in Zheng Zhou in July 10, 2021 was disappointing again.
Let’s review the article published on Sina.com on July 21, 2021 with the title: “A sudden heavy rain knocks down Zheng Zhou meteorological station, then what?”, in which it is written that “Cheng Xiaotiao, a member of the Expert Committee of the National Disaster Mitigation Committee and former director of the Research Institute for Flood Control and Disaster Mitigation under the China Institute of Hydroelectricity and Hydropower Science pointed out in an interview with The China News Weekly that there would be a heavy rain at the forecasting time, the weather department initially predicted the rain center would be in Jiao Zuo, but in the end it was actually Zheng Zhou, which was a bit misleading. This is an unavoidable mistake in current hydrometeorological science and technology”.
Regrettable, if the enthusiasm for investment and development of the “100 meters, 10 minutes” system was applied to protect people’s livelihoods from natural disasters, perhaps a tragedy that caused great casualties like that in Zheng Zhou would have not occurred.
The Beijing Winter Olympics track was built in the core area of the Songshan National Nature Reserve. MarketWatch has recently quoted Carmen de Jong, a professor of hydrology at the University of Strasbourg in France, that Chinese authorities are trying to make sure the road here has enough snow and is in the best condition. A snowball gun was used to create 2.5 million cubic meters of artificial snow for the track, and its water consumption is equivalent to the annual water consumption of 12,000 people.
According to a renowned hydrology expert living in Germany, Wang Weiluo, in Beijing and Zhangjiakou areas the climate is relatively dry and rainfall is insufficient. Due to the rapid growth of the capital, Beijing’s groundwater resources are consumed to a very limited amount, only enough to serve the urban consumption.
To alleviate Beijing’s water shortage problem, the Chinese government made a big move, launching a subsidiary project of the South-North Water Transfer Project. On Feb. 10, Wang Weiluo told The Epoch Times: “Around November last year, the Chinese authorities transferred 50 million cubic meters of water to Zhangjiakou, part of which is stored in the Miyun Reservoir in Beijing.”
Mr. Wang estimates that, with the current size of Miyun Reservoir, water can be used for Beijing for a year even if it doesn’t rain. Thousands of villagers were also resettled, so as to build the canal and accommodate the largest snowmaking operation in Olympic history. According to an investigative report by Business Insider on January 30, the Beijing Winter Olympics costs $ 38.5 billion, 24 times the original budget of $ 1.6 billion. Later, the narrow white snow trails were finally built in the Songshan Nature Reserve, which hosts alpine skiing competitions, covering an area of more than 1,000 football fields.
However, there are many rare species of flora and fauna in Yinsongshan Nature Reserve, including golden eagles and rare orchids. Over the past few years, more than 20,000 trees have been cut down to build a ski resort.
On January 25, The BBC Chinese version quoted Mr. Carmen de Jong, that this has caused the nature reserve to lose 25% of its surface and that “the removal of the topsoil will significantly increase soil erosion, landslides, water pollution and risks to the animal habitat”. Additionally, studies have found that regardless of the type of snow used, artificial ski slopes can erode soil and destroy vegetation.
In this regard, Wang Weiluo said, “If you use artificial rainfall or artificial snowfall to turn a dry area into a wet area, it will not be a blessing for that area, but a disaster”; because that area itself belongs to a semi-arid zone, too much water will destroy the primary ecosystem.
He also pointed out that the Chinese government has always believed that if people feel comfortable, it represents a good ecological environment, but that is not the case. “The definition of good ecology is that without human intervention, what originally grew in this area, what was originally, will be restored that way.”
Wang Weiluo said that setting the venue for the Beijing Olympics in Beijing, Zhangjiakou and Yanqing was a wrong decision. According to him, a better location should be in the Northeast, where the climate and water conditions are relatively good.
In addition, Northeast China is one of the regions with the most backward developed economy in China. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has proposed several plans to revive the industrial zone in the Northeast, but none have been successful, leading to a massive exodus of the Northeast population.
Wang Weiluo emphasized: “If the Olympic Games are held in the Northeast, it will be a great impetus for the revival of the Northeast. Then, the investment will have a better effect”. According to him, a large number of facilities built in Beijing, Zhangjiakou and Yanqing have the potential to be of little use in the future when a lot of artificial snow is needed, which is very expensive. However, Wang Weiluo also said that “the Chinese government never talks about economic benefits, it only talks about political interests, and even tickets to the matches are given away”. By hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the capital will have the title of the first city in the world to host both the summer and winter games.
The Beijing 2022 Olympics takes place in a ‘closed circle’ to prevent the spread of Covid 19, and it also takes place behind the Great Fire Wall. The world has a right to know what’s behind the “wall”, because the Olympics is not of China’s own, nor should they be turned into a private stage to enhance the public image of the CCP at home and abroad.