Beijing Olympics Begin, Minus Western Diplomats

There's a huge contrast between now and the start of the 2008 Games
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2022 6:49 AM CST
Winter Olympics Officially Begin in Beijing Bubble
Chinese President Xi Jinping waves to the crowd with his wife Peng Liyuan by his side during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing.   (Anthony Wallace/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics kicked off Friday with an opening ceremony in the Bird's Nest stadium, making China's capital the first city to host both summer and winter Olympics. But in the 14 years between the Games, much has changed, the AP reports. Hopes that 2008 marked a shift toward a more open China have been crushed and diplomats from many Western countries, including the US, are staying away because of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and elsewhere. With China still pursuing a zero COVID policy, the Games, taking place just six months after the delayed 2020 Games in Tokyo concluded, are being held in a very tightly controlled "bubble." Coverage:

  • A big contrast. BBC correspondent Sonia Oxley was at the stadium when the 2008 Games kicked off and she says this time around is very different from the packed, sweltering start to the summer Games. "The pandemic means a lot of empty seats, face masks as part of costumes and around 3,000 performers taking part, while the freezing temperature means it will also be a much shorter than the 4 hours and 30 minutes of the summer ceremony," she says.

  • The sports. The New York Times has a guide to every sport at the Winter Olympics. The new entries include women's monobob and mixed team aerials.
  • How to to watch. NBC is covering the opening ceremony live and it says it will have primetime sports coverage starting at 8pm Eastern Monday through Friday and 7pm Eastern on Sunday. The network says its Peacock service will have live streams of every event. The Verge lists other streaming options. You can view the daily schedule of events here. The Olympics wrap up Feb. 20.
  • Some important numbers. With 224 athletes, the US has the largest contingent of athletes at the Games, followed by Canada with 215 and the Russian Olympic Committee with 212, according to a Washington Post list of key numbers in Beijing. The Post also notes that 91 national Olympic committees have sent athletes to the Games—and 19 of them are represented by a single competitor each.

  • 10 things to look out for. The Guardian's list of things to look out for in Beijing includes what it calls the "most compelling figure skating rivalry in a generation," between Nathan Chen of the US and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu.
  • A voice of dissent. Athletes have been strongly discouraged from speaking out on political matters, but freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who represented the US in 2014 and now represents Britain, has spoken out against China's "appalling" human rights record. China is not "well suited" to host the Olympics, he tells the BBC. "I think the IOC should take a stance against a lot of these atrocities and stand up for important issues." American athlete Noah Hoffman, who was at the 2014 and 2018 Games, says athletes are understandably very worried about speaking their minds. "If I were there I would be keeping my mouth shut."
(Read more 2022 Beijing Olympics stories.)

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