Tuesday, July 16

Winter Olympics kicks off in Beijing

Agency

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, followed by a burst of fireworks that marked the start of an Olympics marred by the COVID-19 pandemic and criticism over human rights in China.

Friday’s ceremony in a partially-filled Bird’s Nest stadium – the scene of Beijing’s triumphant 2008 Summer Games launch – was filled with imagery of ice and snow, with Xi’s declaration followed by red-suited “skaters” sliding across virtual ice, according to Reuters.

Held on the first day of Spring by the Chinese calendar, it began with a performance by dancers waving glowing green stalks to convey the vitality of the season, followed by an explosion of white and green fireworks that spelled the word “Spring”, the news agency further reported.

The curtain raiser was followed by the traditional “parade of nations”, with each of the 91 delegations preceded by a woman carrying a placard in the shape of a snowflake resembling a Chinese knot.

According to Reuters, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the highest profile foreign leader present for the Games, could be seen in the stadium without a mask. However, the athletes from his country were unable to carry its flag due to doping violations, marching instead under the standard of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Friday’s ceremony began shortly after Xi and Bach entered the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium.

Bach hailed China’s arrival as a “winter sport country” as a “new era for global winter sport”.

With temperatures of about -4 degrees Celcius at the start – not enough to daunt the shirtless flagbearer from American Samoa – the show was set to be about half as long as the four-hour marathon that opened the 2008 Games, also at the Bird’s Nest.

The crowd itself was pared down, with organisers deciding last month not to sell tickets to Olympic events to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

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