A Truly Exceptional Winter Olympic Games
"You and me, from one world. We are family..." The words of You and Me, the theme song of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, resounded at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, as the glittering Olympic rings rose slowly in the center of the stadium and the Olympic torch made its descent. Amid the fireworks, excitement, and reluctant farewells, the curtain finally closed on the Beijing Winter Olympics, February 20, 2022.
Over 16 memorable days, nearly 3,000 athletes from 91 teams competed in the Olympic venues. Breaking two world and 17 Olympic records, they gave true expression to the Olympic motto of "faster, higher, stronger—together." Beijing, now the only city to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, together with Zhangjiakou, a city in the neighboring province, presented the world with an exceptional spectacle. The Games demonstrated the aspirations of the Chinese people, who have written a new legend in Olympic history. President of the International Olympic Council (IOC) Thomas Bach praised the event, noting that "The Olympic Villages were outstanding. The venues—magnificent. The organization—extraordinary." Bach labeled it "truly exceptional Olympic Winter Games."
A true champion of the Olympic spirit
The past few years have witnessed extensive efforts to ensure the success of the Games. During China's Winter Olympic journey, from the bidding process to the preparation, from the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid close attention throughout. He provided guidance, personally participated in decision-making, and led the Chinese people in presenting the world with a captivating show that will be remembered by history.
On July 31, 2015, as bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics entered the final stages, President Xi expressed his firm support for the Games in a video address to IOC delegates and promised that "The Chinese people are waiting expectantly for this opportunity." "I am certain that if you choose Beijing," he continued, "the Chinese people will present the world with a fantastic, extraordinary, and excellent Winter Olympics in Beijing." Xi's pledge was crucial to the success of China's bid. Twenty days later, Xi Jinping chaired a meeting, where he heard a report on the Beijing 2022 bid, discussed preparations for the Games, and stated clearly that the philosophy would be to host a green, inclusive, open, and clean Games. This set the general principles and direction of work for preparations for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
President Xi has on five occasions inspected preparations for the Games at the three competition zones inside urban Beijing, at the suburban town of Yanqing, and in the northern city of Zhangjiakou. He has visited the National Alpine Skiing Center, the National Ski Jumping Center, the National Speed Skating Oval, the Erqi Factory Training Base for Ice and Snow Sports, the Main Media Center for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, and the Games-time Operations Command Center. When the Winter Olympic period officially began, he invited distinguished international guests to attend the opening and closing ceremonies, hosted the welcoming banquet of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, and attended more than 20 diplomatic events in a short time. Thomas Bach has praised the painstaking efforts that President Xi has poured into promoting the Olympic movement, once commenting that "President Xi is a true champion and I want to give him a set of medals."
A splendid, extraordinary, and outstanding Winter Olympics
Chinese athlete Su Yiming stepped onto the start platform and pushed off. Soaring into the air, he launched into a spin before landing softly on his feet. Ninety-three points. Su had executed a frontside 1800, a move of tremendous difficulty, to see off the world's leading snowboarders and secure Olympic gold in the Men's Freeski Big Air on his 18th birthday. On the podium, Su was filled with emotion. "When I heard China's national anthem playing, I really felt just how special and enchanting the Winter Olympics are."
Su has said, "I was born in a great country and was raised in the best era, and I feel very lucky to have achieved my dream through hard work." He recently wrote to President Xi to tell him how he has kept his instructions in mind, trained hard, and worked to excel himself and realize his dreams. Su also expressed his determination to continue to work hard, grow up healthy, and serve his country. The president responded warmly, noting that Su and other Chinese winter sports athletes have competed bravely and surpassed themselves in the Winter Olympics to deliver an outstanding performance. Xi congratulated and praised Su for his success. In the Beijing Winter Olympics, the Chinese team was outstanding, collecting nine golds, four silvers, and two bronzes, and setting records for the number of gold medals and overall medals in a single Winter Games. Ranking third in terms of gold medals, the team won honor for China and its people and greatly contributed to the success of the Games.
"Success is not just about medals or how many medals you win. It is also about fulfilling the Olympic spirit, striving for ceaseless self-improvement, and challenging and surpassing yourself." This is how President Xi has interpreted the Olympic movement. Though German speed skater Claudia Pechstein, the oldest female Winter Olympian in history, finished bottom of the standings, the message "only deep passion can endure the passing years" went viral online as a tribute to her. Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu failed to land the world's first quad axel, yet netizens expressed their support for him with the slogan "Today's Yuzuru Hanyu is the better Yuzuru Hanyu." It is not just the medals that have shone at the Games, but also the noble sportsmanship that transcends national boundaries.
During the opening ceremony, the snowflake placards held aloft by the guides from each delegation were combined to form one giant snowflake, and in the closing ceremony, spectacular fireworks lit up the night sky with the four words "one world, one family" in Chinese and English. The idea of being "together" runs to the very heart of the Olympic Movement, and vividly captures the meaning of building a global community of shared future in the Olympic domain. The Beijing Winter Olympics, an event of unity, peace, and friendship, has sent a powerful message around the world: The dreams of humanity are interlinked, and even the fiercest of rivals can get past their differences to respect one another, work together, and achieve mutual success while chasing their dreams.
The Olympic Broadcasting Service has announced that the Beijing Winter Olympics was the most watched Winter Olympics in history. On the IOC's official social media, more than 2.7 billion people participated in discussions about the Games. Many people have expressed that this was the best Winter Olympics they had ever attended, that this Games has sent a message of hope to the world, and that they want to thank China for hosting the games. It is clear this Winter Olympics has sent warmth and hope to people in countries still enduring the bitter chill of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has contributed much-needed momentum for promoting peace and unity in a tumultuous world.
A high-tech, smart, green, and streamlined Winter Olympics
The Chinese-style romance of the opening ceremony was a digital masterpiece with both splendor and elegance, from the poetic beauty of the Solar Term countdown to the ice-carved traditional Chinese gate and window symbolizing an open China, the currents of the Yellow River cascading onto the surface of the stadium, and the glittering snowflakes. Behind the production was a vast and complex digital innovation project with real-time capture, computer graphics, augmented reality, and other technologies.
Presenting the world with a streamlined, safe, and splendid gala would have been impossible without scientific and technological support. In science and technology, China has progressed from quantitative gains to qualitative leaps, from sporadic breakthroughs to comprehensive capacity enhancement. In 2017, a special program was established to support the Winter Olympics under the national key R&D program. In total, 80 projects were carried out under this program, producing over 200 different technologies that were deployed at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Carbon dioxide trans-critical direct cooling ice-making technology helped to create extremely fast ice, the first domestic production line for high-vanadium airtight cables helped ensure a sturdy roof cable network for the national speed-skating oval, and the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence technology helped create "smart venues." France 24 TV praised the Beijing Winter Olympics as a "high-tech lab for China's vision of the future." For the first time, all Olympic venues were powered by green technology. Many of China's technological achievements in energy conservation, low-carbon energy, and waste and wastewater treatment were also put into practice. The use of these technologies will not be limited to the Games. In future, their application will facilitate the sustainable development of China and countries around the world.
"Hosting the Winter Olympics is not a one-shot deal; venues and facilities must not become silent mountain forests after the Winter Olympics is over." President Xi has emphasized the proper use of venues once the games ended. The National Aquatics Center can be configured for both water and ice sports. The Wukesong Arena is convertible between ice hockey and basketball. In the Beijing zone, 11 of the 13 venues and facilities are part of the legacy of the Summer Olympic Games in 2008. China has developed forward-looking plans and a post-Olympic program. It has made explorations on integrated and lasting use of facilities and venues. The experience and achievements gained in preparing for and hosting the games are valuable assets that China hopes to share with other countries.
"China will honor its commitment to hosting the Winter Olympics." The words of President Xi filled people with warmth. "We have made athletes the center of our efforts, and will do everything we can to provide hard and soft infrastructure guarantees and services across the board. We are fully confident we can ensure the health and safety of participants and related personnel and the Chinese people." Though Covid-19 continued to spread globally, China was able to fulfill its promise. It welcomed more than 15,000 athletes and other key Olympic personnel. Inside the closed Olympic loop, the positive case rate was roughly 0.01%. Over 100 medical points and over 10,000 volunteers helped create a sealed prevention and control system with point-to-point transportation services, thus minimizing the risk of transmission. This was a demonstration to the world of China's ability to overcome difficulties and challenges. AFP reported that in the closed Olympic "bubble," the scale and strictness of epidemic controls were unprecedented, making the Beijing Winter Olympic Games one of the most memorable in history. With these closed-loop management practices, the Chinese government has provided an example for the world in Covid-19 response.
An optimistic, prosperous, strong, and open China that is full of hope
"Did I place first? Did I really place first?" After her victory was confirmed, Chinese athlete Xu Mengtao found tears rolling down her face again. But they were no longer tears of regret or discontent, but tears of joy at overcoming innumerable struggles—tears that flow when your dream is realized. From the age of five, Xu dreamed of becoming an Olympic champion. She made her Olympic debut at 19, and entered her fourth Olympics at the age of 31. Despite injuries or low points, Xu never gave up on her dream. "Over the past twenty years, I have done one thing right—I have persevered because of passion and my dream." Through sheer resilience and hard work, Xu won China's first Olympic gold in women's freestyle skiing aerials.
What has moved us most is the sporting passion and striving spirit. Sports development is part of the effort to realize the Chinese Dream, and it also provides a powerful inner strength for national rejuvenation. Chinese Olympic athletes possess an energetic, never-giving up, and enterprising spirit, one which inspires the patriotism, determination, and initiative of countless Chinese people, and serves as powerful inspiration for all Chinese people as we strive forward together on the new journey of building a modern socialist country.
Just as sport is a vehicle for our dream of national strength and rejuvenation, it also bears on the wellbeing of our people and the future of our country. President Xi noted, "Early in the bidding process, I proposed that the main objective of hosting the Winter Olympics was to engage 300 million people in winter sports. Thanks to our tireless efforts, this vision has been realized." Between 2015, when Beijing won the right to host the Olympics, and October 2021, the number of people engaged in winter sports in China rose to 346 million, representing a participation rate of 24.56%. Following the success of the Beijing Winter Games, this figure is sure to keep rising.
But the achievements have not been limited to the winter sports arena. As President Xi called for excellent scorecards in both hosting the Winter Olympics and promoting local development, the integrated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region has accelerated, based on strong synergy, unity of purpose, and close collaboration. Industrial development across the region is now mutually reinforcing, public services are being jointly developed and shared, and joint prevention and treatment of pollution is being carried out. Traveling time between Beijing and Zhangjiakou has been cut to an hour or less. In Chongli of Zhangjiakou, people are making a good living from winter sports industries. As President Xi has said, "History will remember this moment, and the world will have a new understanding of China's path." This "truly exceptional" Winter Olympics has allowed the international community to see a vibrant China that honors commitments, a more confident, open, and inclusive China, and a China that is traveling on the right path and advancing with strong determination.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 5, 2022)